CHICAGO • 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 National Basketball Association champions.
"It's a new season and everyone is gunning for us every night," James told reporters after his Cavs (13-5) fell 105-111. "We have to understand that. The honeymoon stage is over, 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 (11-7), who bounced back from a disappointing defeat by 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.
"He brings the best out of me and I love competing against him," Wade said about the energising effect of playing James and Co. "I'm glad we got the 'W' but he's the greatest. He brings the best out of everybody."
"We got a chance to redeem ourselves," Butler added. "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.
RUBBING SALT IN THE WOUND
You aren't going to smile for my Snapchat.
DWYANE WADE, his cellphone aimed at LeBron James..
While James had shrugged off the significance of back-to-back defeats, the third loss is sure to spark concern. "We need to continue to be better," he added. "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."
James also made good on a World Series wager on Friday, sporting a full Chicago Cubs baseball uniform when he arrived for the NBA game in Chicago.
HE'S GOT ONE MORE FOLLOWER
Why are you following me - you already won the bet.
LEBRON JAMES, protesting as friend and former team-mate Dwyane Wade dogs his footsteps
In a bet with friend and former team-mate Wade, James agreed that he would turn out in the Cubs kit if the Chicago team beat the Cleveland Indians in baseball's championship showcase this year.
The Cubs did indeed end their epic title drought, battling back from a 1-3 series deficit to do so.
James' arrival at the Bulls' United Centre for the Cavs' first game in Chicago since then drew an even larger crowd than usual.
Wade escorted him through the halls, baiting him a little. "You aren't going to smile for my Snapchat," Wade said, his cellphone aimed at James.
"Why are you following me - you already won the bet," James said.
But before they headed to their separate locker rooms, Wade could not resist a little more friendly teasing: "Doesn't he look good everybody?
"Look at him - he looks great."