NBA: Honeymoon over, says James as Bulls hand floundering Cavs a third consecutive loss

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives past Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the second half at the United Center on Dec 3, 2016.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives past Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the second half at the United Center on Dec 3, 2016.PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS

AFP - Dwyane Wade and the Chicago Bulls handed the Cleveland Cavaliers a third straight defeat on Friday, and superstar LeBron James said it should serve as a wake-up call to the defending NBA champions.

"It's a new season and everyone is gunning for us every night," James told reporters after his Cavs were beaten 111-105. "We have to understand that.

"The honeymoon stage is over," James added. "It's time to play some real ball."

Jimmy Butler scored 26 points, Wade added 24 and Taj Gibson finished with 23 for the Bulls, who bounced back from a disappointing defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Rajon Rondo produced a triple-double of 15 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds as all Chicago starters scored in double figures.

"We got a chance to redeem ourselves," Butler said. "A big win."

There was no redemption for the Cavaliers a day after they were humbled 113-94 by the Los Angeles Clippers in Cleveland. That setback followed an upset loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.

While James had shrugged off the significance of back-to-back defeats, the third loss was sure to spark concern.

"We need to continue to be better," James said. "It doesn't matter if we're on a 20-game winning streak. We need to stay with the process and continue to get better every day." The Cavaliers got off to a fast start, but the Bulls had whittled the lead to one point by half-time and out-scored Cleveland by nine in the third quarter before holding on in the fourth.

It was no consolation that, as Wade noted, the chance to take on James has an energising effect on the Cavaliers' rivals.

"He brings the best out of me and I love competing against him," said Wade, James's friend and former team-mate in Miami. "I'm glad we got the 'W' but he's the greatest in the game. He brings the best out of everybody."