CLEVELAND — Luol Deng scored 15 points and helped stop LeBron James on a drive in the final seconds as the Chicago Bulls ended Cleveland’s three-game winning streak with an 86-85 win over the Cavaliers on Thursday night.
Derrick Rose had 14 points and 11 assists and John Salmons added 14 points for the Bulls, who handed the Cavs their second loss at home. Cleveland, which lost to Boston in its opener, only lost two regular-season games and went 45-3 at Quicken Loans Arena last season.
James, who led the Cavaliers with 25 points, lost the ball out of bounds with 3.2 seconds to go after powering his way to the hoop. He drew contact on the play from both Deng and Joakim Noah as the ball slipped from his hands but the officials didn’t feel he was fouled.
James spent a few extra moments on the floor after the game politely pleading his case.
Down 86-85, the Cavaliers, who sputtered on offense all night, buckled down and made the defensive stop they needed by forcing a 24-second shot clock violation. Cleveland called a full timeout and set up a play. But before they could inbound the ball, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro called a 20-second time out to reset his defense.
James took the pass and got a step on Deng in the lane. As he neared the basket, Noah came over to help and bumped Cleveland’s superstar. The ball went out of bounds with two-tenths of a second left, but before the referees gave the ball to Chicago, they watched another replay of their call.
As they huddled at the scorer’s table, James came over to give his view on the play.
“I got hammered,” he said. “He [Noah] jumped towards me.”
After the horn, James made one last visit to officials Ron Garretson, Michael Smith and Eli Roe. There was nothing he could do at that point but shrug his shoulders and head to the locker room.
Shaquille O’Neal had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Anderson Varejao added 12 with 13 rebounds for the Cavs, who were just 6 of 19 from the field in the fourth and finished 12 of 20 on free throws. One of Chicago’s defensive goals was to send the Cavs to the line, where they came in shooting just 70 percent.
Brad Miller scored 10 points and Chicago’s reserves outscored Cleveland’s 25-12 in a choppy game between the Central Division rivals.
James went down twice in the first half with apparent injuries while running off the floor.
First, he rolled his left ankle after pulling up under Cleveland’s basket. Then, he banged himself hard on a chair while diving into the seats going after a loose ball at the other end. As James was being checked by trainer Max Benton, the entire Cleveland team and coaching staff walked over to make sure he was OK.
With the Cavaliers making their only trip this season to New York on Friday, James knows the atmosphere inside Madison Square Garden will be more electrified. He’s eligible for free agency after the season, and Knicks fans are praying he’ll come to the Big Apple and resurrect their NBA franchise.
James is prepared for another round of questions about his intentions next summer and joked that he hasn’t ruled out signing with any team.
“I thought about playing everywhere, for every team in the NBA,” he said diplomatically.
Even the Clippers?
“Everywhere,” he said, smiling. “At one point in my life I thought about playing for every team. All of them.”
Actor Jeremy Piven, who plays superagent Ari Gold, on HBO’s popular “Entourage” series, sat courtside. James made a cameo in last season’s finale. … James was excited that his beloved Yankees won their 27th World Series title and said he had contacted Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia to offer his congratulations. James also understands the frustration felt by some baseball fans because of New York’s exorbitant payroll. “But at the end of the day, guys still got to go out there,” he said. “Money can’t help you swing the bat. Money can’t help you grab the ball. Money can’t help you turn double plays and money can’t help you close out games.” … Bulls F Tyrus Thomas played 12 minutes. He missed Tuesday’s game and Wednesday’s practice with the flu. He flew commercial to Cleveland after he was cleared by a doctor. “It was bad, helpless,” Thomas said. “Fever, chills, vomiting, I couldn’t eat. But I’m better now.”
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