CHICAGO: LeBron James started the overtime session Friday just as he started the game: in charge and on the attack. As a result, the Cavaliers survived a fourth-quarter collapse to win their first game in an early season matchup against what should be their biggest rival in the East.
James scored 36 points, including the Cavs’ first eight in overtime in their 114-108 victory over the Chicago Bulls at United Center. The Cavs squandered a nine-point lead to start the fourth and trailed by five in the final minute before rallying.
“Today was a huge step,” James said. “It was something I didn’t know if we had right now.”
James received a huge assist from Tristan Thompson, who grabbed four offensive rebounds in the overtime session alone. Thompson followed his fourth with a dunk, giving the Cavs a 108-104 lead with 24 seconds left. He had 16 points and 13 rebounds off the bench and 12 of those rebounds were offensive.
“Tristan was unbelievable,” James said. “That’s a man’s game right there.”
But Thompson left the arena without a new contract. The team and his representatives had until midnight Friday to agree on an extension, and while they negotiated into the final hour, no deal was reached. Now he will be a restricted free agent next summer and the Cavs will have the right to match any offer he receives.
After the Cavs were outrebounded by the New York Knicks in Thursday’s disappointing opener, they beat up the Bulls in rebounding 52-42. Thompson and Kevin Love combined for 29 of the Cavs’ rebounds.
“I was just being active,” Thompson said. “I would have gotten more, but K-Love got the rest of the defensive boards.”
Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, then presented the game ball in the locker room to David Blatt for earning his first NBA victory.
“I’ve probably won about 700 games in my career, but none of them have been here,” Blatt said. “It was a little bit odd on one hand, but that’s a bit of history for my friends and my family.”
The win washed away the lingering residue from Thursday’s disappointing home-opening loss against the Knicks, but it didn’t come without a fight.
The Cavs carried a 78-69 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Bulls took the lead on a layup from Aaron Brooks with 6:44 to play, their first lead since late in the first quarter.
The Cavs went nearly four minutes without a field goal late in the game and Kirk Hinrich scored eight points in the game’s final two minutes. They did it all without Derrick Rose, who had 20 points and four assists, but missed the fourth quarter with a sprained left ankle. He departed with 2:38 left in the third quarter and did not return.
Hinrich’s final basket of the fourth gave the Bulls a 98-93 lead with 47 seconds left, but James made two free throws, the Cavs got a stop and Irving was the beneficiary of a questionable continuation call on a three-point play to tie the game.
“Five points with 47 seconds to go, that’s a lifetime,” Blatt said. “Tonight that lifetime saved us.”
After a miserable performance Thursday that included a 5-for-15 shooting night and eight turnovers, James came out firing to start the game. He took 10 shots in the first quarter, more than double anyone else on the team, and ended the first half with 19 points on 9-for-17 shooting.
“[Thursday] I played passive trying to get a lot of guys involved,” James said. “It resulted in me having a lot of turnovers. I played my game. I was aggressive from the start.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.