No reason to take things too seriously in preseason, especially not in the opener. The Cleveland Cavaliers lost 98-96 to the Atlanta Hawks, as LeBron James was mostly busy having fun with fans around him than trying to put on a show on the court.
James finished with just 8 points while shooting 3-of-13 from the field, also adding 7 rebounds and 5 assists. He made fans happy by letting them take selfies with him or sitting next to them, but in terms of finding out how good he is heading into the new season, we’re going to need to see a more serious side of his and his team’s.
The Cavaliers are undermanned right now. Kyrie Irving isn’t playing, Iman Shumpert is out and Kevin Love still isn’t back. Besides James, it was Timofey Mozgov, Mo Williams, James Jones and J.R. Smith in the starting lineup. Anderson Varejao, who missed most of last season with his annual big injury, was back, coming off the bench. Tristan Thompson? For now, he’s nowhere to be found, as the situation between him and the team remains testy.
Smith led the Cavaliers with 15 points and Mozgov added 13. Off the bench, Austin Daye scored 12 points and Jared Cunningham finished with 10. Richard Jefferson had one impressive dunk and scored 9 points altogether, but was shooting just 2-of-9 from the field.
The Hawks, coming off a very good regular season but a sweep in the conference finals against the Cavaliers, haven’t changed much compared to last season. No DeMarre Carroll, which meant Kent Bazemore was in the lineup, scoring 12 points. Tiago Splitter came off the bench to score 2 points, while the best for the Hawks were Jeff Teague and Al Horford. The point guard scored 17 points and the team’s center added 15, as the Hawks are hoping that minor changes and running basically the same team a second straight season under the same coach will result in another challenge for the Eastern title.
As far as the Cavs are concerned, these games don’t matter. The regular season isn’t that big either, especially while Irving is out of the picture. Championship-bound teams always operate on a different plain and effort level, and it’s clear to see that we’re not going to learn a whole lot about most of their key players from this preseason.