LeBron James: Cavs ‘can’t go down 0-2' to Bulls

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LeBron James drives on Jimmy Butler early in Game 1. (AP/Tony Dejak)

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt pointed to LeBron James’ stat line in Monday’s Eastern Conference semifinals series-opening loss to the Bulls — 19 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists — and wondered what a superstar has to do to get some respect around here.

Addressing the media Tuesday at the Cavs’ training facility a day before a Game 2 his team seemingly must win to have a chance in this series, Blatt played it cool on James’ fourth-quarter offensive no-show in Game 1 and all other matters. There are at least a dozen different ways to defend the pick-and-roll, he said, as though figuring out how to stop the Derrick Rose-Pau Gasol connection is a simple process of elimination. And maintaining home-court advantage, well, that’s not as big a deal as it used to be.

But know this, Bulls fans: James isn’t hearing any of that noise. He more than accepts the criticism of his play in a seven-point defeat that could’ve gone the other way; he agrees with it. And he readily acknowledges the trouble that’s brewing for a short-handed squad minus Kevin Love for the series and still without J.R. Smith for Game 2.

“It’s a game we must have,” James said. “You can’t go down 0-2 and then go on the road.”

It took nearly eight minutes for James to get into the scoring column — on only his second shot attempt — in his first crack at the Bulls. His style long has been to feel out his opponent early, but that approach doesn’t make much sense when it enables the opponent to jet out to a double-digit lead.

“Last night was a little too much feel-out,” he said. “I may have to change my mindset a little bit.”

Translation: Jimmy Butler had better be in top defensive form from the jump Wednesday night. Even if he is, he’ll need a lot of help from his friends. If James is dialed up to dominate, it may not matter what the Bulls throw at him.

The postseason is, or should be, when superstars are made, especially during those powder kegs known as fourth quarters. After James’ put-back with 6:18 to play in Game 1 cut the Bulls’ lead to 86-84, he didn’t score again. Kyrie Irving didn’t score over the last 8:57 — a shocking turn of events after he’d rung up 30 points — but no one’s going to pin a second-round fade-out on the Cavs’ 23-year-old point guard.

There’s only one King in this league.

“For me, [it was] an off game,” James said. “Offensively, as far as shooting, I was not efficient enough.”

The next step for the Bulls will be proving they can beat a LeBron-led team when its back is against the wall. For what it’s worth, James has no illusions that the Cavs will be able to do what the Miami Heat did against the Bulls in the 2011 East finals — win four straight after dropping Game 1.

“Home court doesn’t guarantee you an extra game on your floor,” he said. “You have to get to Game 7.”

James and the Cavs likely would sign up for that long haul right now if they could.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg

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