The Rust Belt and California both got good looks at the new tilt of the NBA’s power balance this weekend.
Friday night featured perhaps the premier matchup of the young season, when LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers armada visited the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Coming into the game on the heels of a big letdown on opening night — when, behind James’ eight turnovers and overall stiff play, they lost 95-90 to the New York Knicks at home — the Cavs were focused like a laser Friday. James scored 36 and Tristan Thompson added 12 offensive rebounds as Cleveland overcame the Bulls in overtime, 114-108.
More significant than the game’s result was the fact that Bulls’ point guard Derrick Rose left the contest with a sprained ankle. Rose traveled and warmed up with the team Saturday, but did not play as the Bulls beat the Minnesota Timberwolves. The injury appears to be minor, and if Rose’s scintillating play on Friday is any indication, we’re all lucky for that; the Bulls and Cavs could be embarking upon the league’s new top rivalry.
Out West by the bay on Saturday night, Kobe Bryant and his thin Los Angeles Lakers roster couldn’t find such feverish competition against the Golden State Warriors; the Warriors are of a higher class than the Lakers now, and they let them know it. Klay Thompson went off for 41 points and combined with Steph Curry to total 72, as the Warriors beat L.A. 127-104. Thompson’s performance was taken as something of a statement game — a proving ground for his new four-year, $70 million contract extension, inked over the weekend. Klay wanted the world to see that he’s worth all that paper.
Bryant and the Lakers have started the season 0-4. When asked by a reporter about the skid — the worst Lakers’ start of Kobe’s career — Bryant sarcastically chided his questioner, saying “No, it doesn't bother me. I’m festive and jovial about it."
Adjusting to the status of mere basketball mortal clearly isn't easy on Bryant. But at least he turned back the clock for a moment or two toward 28 points, and got in one of the plays of the year during the loss:
— John Wilmes