Coming off a Game 1 loss to the Bulls, the four-time MVP opted to go for a different look when he came back to the floor for Game 2. His trademark headband was back, and so was his next-level game. James offered the Bulls a harsh reminder of just how dominant he can be when he wants it. That's a lesson the Bulls have learned the hard way throughout the years, and the headband just served as a reminder of bad memories that have haunted the Bulls during their showdowns with James.
"I don't care about no headband," said Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, who defended James for most of the game. "He can play with or without the headband. He's a great player, headband or not. He outplayed me tonight."
James finished with 33 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals as the Cavs earned the win they desperately needed. For all the talk in recent days revolving around Butler becoming a superstar for the Bulls, he had a front row seat for a movie he has seen before starring James in the leading role. The Bulls are 3-0 in Game 1s against James but dropped to 0-9 in the ensuing games with Wednesday's loss.
Butler isn't backing down from James, but he knows that in order for the Bulls to win he is going to have to play better than he did on Wednesday.
"He was aggressive, but I wasn't aggressive on defense," Butler said. "It was easy for him. He got to the rim too easily. Lots of layups, reckless fouling, he did what he said he was going to do."
The Bulls, yet again, created a big hole for themselves early from which they couldn't recover. As usual, the players weren't sure exactly why they came out so poorly and fell behind 38-18 at the end of the first quarter.
"Who knows?" Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. "With this team we've been like that the entire year. We haven't put a finger on it yet. Being in the playoffs you have to answer that bell right away, so we're going to look at film [Thursday], go over everything, and just have a strategy and a game plan to see how things go from there. But it's something we got to change right away."
Listening to players in the Bulls' locker room on Wednesday night was like listening to them after a regular-season game in January. They know what the issues are, but they still aren't sure why they can't fix them.
"Our energy wasn't the way it was in Game 1," Bulls power forward Taj Gibson said. "We came out a little lax ... The playoffs are about different punches and guys being able to counter. And they hit us with a knockout blow early, and we couldn't really adapt and it was real frustrating."
Like his teammates, Butler was frustrated with the way he played after the game, but he vowed to fix the errors heading into another showdown with James in Game 3 on Friday in Chicago.
"We came out sluggish," said Butler, who led the Bulls with 18 points. "We weren't guarding. We were trying to outscore them. We've been saying we can't do that all year. It's easily correctable, but we got to guard. It starts with me once again, like I always say. I'm the one that has to set the tone on defense and I didn't do that tonight."