LeBron James Scores 34, Dwyane Wade Adds 10 as Cavaliers Beat Bulls

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 21: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball against the Chicago Bulls on December 21, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

LeBron James made a pair of free throws to help seal a 115-112 victory for the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night at home in Quicken Loans Arena.

James tallied a game-high 34 points to go with six rebounds and nine assists, while Kevin Love scored 27 points and grabbed seven boards. Dwyane Wade came off the bench to score 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting for Cleveland.

Lauri Markkanen (25 points) was one of four Bulls starters to score in double figures. Kris Dunn had 10 points and 14 assists to post the third double-double of his career.

Denzel Valentine, who scored 18 points, had an opportunity to tie the game after the Bulls called a timeout following James' second made free throw. Valentine's three-point attempt hit the front rim inside the final two seconds, and Wade collected the rebound to run out the clock.

Given the talent gap between the teams, the Bulls couldn't afford to make many mistakes. While Chicago committed only 12 turnovers, The Athletic's Darnell Mayberry thought they played a big role in the final result:

The Bulls turned the ball over on each of their first four possessions of the fourth quarter, which helped the Cavs build a 10-point lead, 89-79, with 10:15 left in the game.

Chicago responded by going on a 9-0 run to cut Cleveland's advantage to a point, and the Bulls never trailed by more than seven points for the remainder of the contest. Markkanen tied it at 94-94 with 5:53 remaining, but the Bulls couldn't take the lead.

Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Woo thought Thursday was another example of James' ability to rise to the occasion against Chicago:

James brought the excitement right out of the gate as he connected with Jose Calderon on an alley-oop for the Cavs' second bucket of the game. The team shared a replay of the jam on Twitter:

The four-time MVP scored 11 of Cleveland's 33 points in the fourth quarter, including the Cavs' final four points. While it wasn't one of James' standout individual performances this year, it illustrated how much his team leans on him in clutch situations.

Even with the win, the best news for Cleveland came before the contest, when Isaiah Thomas was in full uniform warming up. The NBA showed him working with his teammates during the Cavs' shootaround:

The Vertical's Shams Charania reported Sunday that Thomas is hoping to get back by early January. Thomas' brief cameo on the court Thursday would seemingly indicate he's somewhat close to returning from his hip injury.

The Cavs have the next three days off before they take on the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. It will be the first time the teams have crossed paths since Golden State defeated Cleveland in the 2017 NBA Finals.

The Warriors will be without Stephen Curry as the two-time MVP nurses an ankle injury, while the Cavs have already ruled out the hope that Thomas will make his regular-season debut Monday night.

Still, both teams will have more than enough star power to make the Cavs vs. Warriors the most anticipated game during a busy Christmas Day.

The Bulls will return to the court Saturday to meet the Boston Celtics, whom they most recently beat by 23 points on Dec. 11. The Celtics were without Kyrie Irving in that game, and Chicago will be on the road this time around.

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