CLEVELAND — LeBron James felt solely love at house.
Making his first journey again to Cleveland since leaving for the second time as a free agent, James was welcomed like a hero on Wednesday night time and rallied the Lakers to a 109-105 win over the Cavaliers, who performed an impressed sport towards their former teammate however couldn’t cease him when it mattered most.
James completed with 32 factors, 14 rebounds and 7 assists. He additionally scored or assisted on 11 straight factors because the Lakers overcame a 99-91 deficit within the fourth quarter.
The Cavs had an opportunity to tie late, however Kyle Korver missed a wide-open 3-pointer with 17 seconds left and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made 4 free throws within the remaining 15 to seal it for Los Angeles.
From the second he stepped again onto Quicken Loans Enviornment ground, his house courtroom for 11 seasons, James was handled like a returning champion.
On the night time earlier than Thanksgiving, Cleveland mentioned due to the Northeast Ohio son, the one who ended town’s 52-year championship drought.
“We acknowledge the truth that actually this can be a huge night time for town of Cleveland,” Cavs coach Larry Drew mentioned earlier than tipoff, “as a result of a hero has come again.”
The Cavs, who got here in an NBA-worst 2-13, didn’t roll over towards James and performed one in every of their finest video games this season. They appeared in management up 99-91 earlier than James, as he did some many instances for Cleveland.
Jordan Clarkson had 20 factors and Tristan Thompson 14 and 15 rebounds for Cleveland.
James was the final Lakers participant launched earlier than the sport, introduced with a line acquainted to all Cavs followers: “A 6-foot-Eight ahead from St. Vincent-St. Mary Excessive Faculty,” mentioned enviornment announcer Sean Peebles. “Welcome house! LeBron James.”
The group roared and stood as James walked out and huddled together with his new teammates, who will need to have puzzled what was in retailer for them.
However not like that ugly night time of Dec. 2, 2010, when James returned with the Warmth and was subjected to continuous booing, profane chants and a poisonous, charged environment of hatred not like something seen earlier than or since, this was an evening for celebration — and perhaps extra closure.
James has moved on.
With 8:09 left within the first quarter, James was saluted by the Cavs with a shifting video tribute throughout a timeout. Photos of James’ taking part in days with Cleveland — highlighted by the Cavs’ historic comeback to win the 2016 title — have been proven together with video clips of his influence on the neighborhood, together with his opening of the I Promise Faculty in his hometown of Akron.
As the group stood and confirmed its affection towards James, “Thank You LeBron” was displayed in giant letters on the world’s big scoreboard.
James seemed to be touched by the presentation. He bit his decrease lip whereas strolling again onto courtroom and pointed to all corners of the constructing in appreciation, his likelihood to reconnect with a fan base he’ll at all times share a particular, if not sophisticated, relationship.
Carrying a flat cap, lengthy jacket and boots, James arrived at 5:46 p.m., getting into the Q by a safety entrance he’s handed by many instances. He greeted two guards close to the door with fist bumps earlier than shortly strolling previous a big group of photographers to the guests’ locker room.
Earlier within the day, James visited his I Promise Faculty, a refurbished elementary for at-risk children he based and plans to broaden.
James got here again to Cleveland to face a staff in disarray with out him.
The Cavs have endured a season’s value of points in simply over a month with the firing of coach Tyronn Lue, All-Star ahead Kevin Love present process foot surgical procedure and the newest drama — disillusioned ahead J.R. Smith being excused so Cleveland can attempt to commerce him.