CHICAGO: Dwyane Wade and the Chicago Bulls handed the Cleveland Cavaliers a third straight defeat on Friday (Saturday in Manila), and superstar LeBron James said it should serve as a wakeup call to the defending NBA champions.
“It’s a new season and everyone is gunning for us every night,” James told reporters after his Cavs fell 111-105. “We have to understand that.
“The honeymoon stage is over,” James added. “It’s time to play some real ball.”
Jimmy Butler scored 26 points, Wade added 24 and Taj Gibson finished with 23 for the Bulls, who bounced back from a disappointing defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Rajon Rondo produced a triple-double of 15 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds as all Chicago starters scored in double figures.
“We got a chance to redeem ourselves,” Butler said. “A big win.”
There was no redemption for the Cavaliers a day after they were humbled 113-94 by the Los Angeles Clippers in Cleveland. That setback followed an upset loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
While James had shrugged off the significance of back-to-back defeats the third loss was sure to spark concern.
“We need to continue to be better,” James said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re on a 20-game winning streak. We need to stay with the process and continue to get better every day.”
The Cavaliers got off to a fast start, but the Bulls had whittled the lead to one point by halftime and out-scored Cleveland by nine in the third quarter before holding on in the fourth.
It was no consolation that, as Wade noted, the chance to take on James has an energizing effect on the Cavaliers’ rivals.
“He brings the best out of me and I love competing against him,” said Wade, James’s friend and former teammate in Miami. “I’m glad we got the ‘W’ but he’s the greatest in the game. He brings the best out of everybody.”
Rockets keep rolling
The quick turnaround from their double-overtime triumph over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday didn’t hinder the Houston Rockets in their 128-110 victory over the Nuggets in Denver.
James Harden scored 20 oints and handed out seven assists, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson scored 18 points apiece and the Rockets never trailed.
After their thrilling 132-127 triumph over the Warriors in Oakland — which snapped Golden State’s 12-game winning streak — the Rockets didn’t arrive in Denver until just before dawn.
Nevertheless they got off to a hot start, scoring 42 points in the first quarter. They connected on 50.6 percent of their shots from the field and led by as many as 22.
The Clippers also showed no sign of a let-down one day after their win in Cleveland, finishing out a six-game road trip with a 114-96 victory over the Pelicans in New Orleans.
Leonard lifts Spurs
Kawhi Leonard capped a 23-point display with a game-winning jump shot with 6.1 seconds remaining in the Spurs’ 107-105 victory over the Washington Wizards in San Antonio.
The Spurs, perfect on the road this season, have had their struggles in four home defeats.
After a sluggish start they stormed through the end of the third quarter to stretch their lead to as many as 10 points early in the final frame and held off a Wizards comeback bid.
Washington’s Bradley Beal made a three-pointer to give Washington a 103-102 lead with 53.4 seconds to play.
San Antonio’s Patty Mills missed a three-pointer with 28.9 remaining, but LaMarcus Aldridge reeled in the rebound to give the Spurs another chance.
Danny Green connected on a three-pointer to put San Antonio up 105-103, but John Wall answered with a driving layup that tied the game until Leonard stepped up to seal the victory.