By: Brent Raines ~Sports Editor~
For the second straight season, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted a preseason game in front of a spirited Cintas Center. The Cavs, as part of their “#AllforOhio” campaign, hosted the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 7 and fell to their visitors 98-96. Star forward James played 22 minutes and logged eight points, seven rebounds and five assists. Guard J.R. Smith led the Cavs with 15 points while Hawks All-Star guard Jeff Teague led all scorers with 17 points.
Cleveland All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving did not play due to injuries, while fan-favorite center Anderson Varejao returned after a season-ending Achilles injury last December. While both teams looked rusty in their first preseason game, there were encouraging signs for the Cavaliers. While the team committed 18 turnovers, Cleveland also registered 28 assists, which is well over its season average of 22.1 from last season.
“That’s the goal for the season, we want to get the ball moving from side to side,” James said. “We had a lot of isolation basketball at the end of the year because all of our playmakers were sitting. I’m very efficient (in isolation), Kyrie’s very efficient, but we also can’t have the ball stick.”
Thirty-five-year-old forward Richard Jefferson had the highlight of the game with a tomahawk dunk over 7-foot-3 Hawks center Walter Tavares. The play was the top play on SportsCenter that night and followed an offensive rebound and pass from Varejao.
“I have to give Andy (Varejao) credit,” Jefferson said after the game. “He’s very sensitive about that stuff.” However, it was a moment during a break in the action that got the most internet attention. While officials were reviewing a previous play, James turned around from his perch at the scorers’ table and gave a few kids a high-five. Shortly after, a swarm descended down the aisle towards him and someone handed him a cell phone. James took a selfie, and the moment went viral.
The Cavaliers have since lost two additional preseason games, and their preseason record stands at 0-3. Cleveland tips off the regular season against the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 27.
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