Maccabi Tel Aviv was there in Cleveland, all right, but that didn’t make much of a difference to their hosts, who sailed through to a 107-80 victory in the exhibition game that pitted them against their new coach's old team.
- Basketball / Newcomers hoping to scale great heights as domestic season begins
- After NBA detour, revamped Maccabi Tel Aviv prepares to defend Euroleague title
The reception LeBron James received, upon his introduction, was probably the most massive amount of applause ever awarded to an NBA player at a pre-season match. His first play of the game didn't go quite as expected – ending in a steal and a three-pointer for Tel Aviv – but his second was already much better:
Maccabi managed to struggle along throughout the first half, in which Lebron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love had to grow accustomed to the fact they were sharing the court with near-identical colors. But Jeremy Pargo and Sylven Landesberg's offensive skills could only go so far when confronted by a team such as the Cavs. The limitations of Guy Goodes' group was obvious for all to see; Blatt's bunch simply had to pick up the pieces.
LeBron was on the court for the first half, which ended in a 59-44 score that in retrospect seemed nearly merciful when compared with the doings of Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, who racked up 28 points to Maccabi's 16 in the third quarter alone. By the last quarter Blatt was down to his third or fourth string, but even that didn't make life much easier for the Euroleague champion, who failed to close the gap, finishing it an even 20-20.
The game ended palindrome-esquely, with Blatt mustering a measure of symmetry with James' record-setting welcome entry as he waded out through an unsurpassed sea of hugs from the rival team.