In an ugly game, the Cavaliers managed to hold onto a slim fourth-quarter lead to outlast the Bulls by a score of 96-94. Antawn Jamison led the Cavs with 25 points, and Derrick Rose led all scorers with 31. The Cavs have eliminated the Bulls from the playoffs, and will face the Boston Celtics in round two.
The Cavs came out running their offense and hitting shots. LeBron looked to be a facilitator early, and was setting guys up with laser-beam feeds for open threes. The Cavs scored 27 in the first quarter, with almost all their shots coming from the paint, on open threes, or on awkward Jamison shots.
But one of the Cavs’ issues from the regular season reared its head in game five. The Cavs were scoring at will on offense, and they felt that allowed them to play sloppy. They gave up too much penetration and too many open looks. They committed silly turnovers without forcing them at the other end. They failed to close out the quarter. Because of all those things, the Cavs only led by one after the first period.
The Cavs threated to break it open in the second. They were able to force some turnovers and get out in transition, and that allowed them to open up the lead. Jamario ran the floor for an alley-oop and a layup. Delonte was finally wreaking some havoc out there and finding loose balls. Shaq beat the Bulls down the floor for a dunk — after a made basket. Things were looking good. The Bulls kept it close by closing the half with three straight catch-and-shoot jumpers for Deng, and the Bulls went in down only seven.
The offense stalled badly in the third quarter. Jamison didn’t keep his hot hand going, LeBron wasn’t taking over, and the shots weren’t falling for anyone else. With Cleveland struggling, the Bulls were able to claw back into the game. After three quarters, the score was 73-71 in favor of Cleveland.
The fourth quarter was ugly. Shaq drew three fouls in rapid succession to start the quarter. The Cavs were fouling left and right when the Bulls had the ball. The Cavs caught a break when Derrick Rose’s and-1 was called a foul on the floor. Delonte hit a big three, and LeBron made some and-1s to put the Cavs in the driver’s seat. When Antawn Jamison hit a pick-and-pop three to put the Cavs up nine with 3:29 remaining, the game seemed over.
Most of what happened after this point is a blur of rage and confusion to me. LeBron made a bad turnover that led to a Deng floater. He ran down the clock and tried the dagger three (not a horrible decision, actually), and then Andy fouled Deng going after the rebound to send him to the line. (ARGH.) Jamison got called for a pass-and-crash charge. Rose drew a foul on Andy in 10 seconds. A possession later, the Bulls got two points in two seconds when Delonte tried and failed to draw a charge on Rose at mid-court.
LeBron then got fouled on a drive and hit two big free throws. Rose missed a floater. Mo missed a runner, but Noah let an easy rebound slip out of his hands and out of bounds. The Cavs ran the clock down, LeBron got trapped and passed it to Varejao, and Andy coughed it up. The Bulls wisely went for the quick two, but Andy redeemed himself by forcing Rose to go to his left on a floater. LeBron got fouled, hit the first one to make it a two-possession game, and…bricked the second one because he shot it left-handed.
That was, to say the least, a moment. After the game, LeBron revealed he’s had elbow issues for a while. He says it’s nothing to worry about and that an MRI was negative, but that the arm goes numb sometimes, like he’s been hit in the funnybone. He says he “didn’t want to risk it” by taking his second FT righty, seeing as to how the Cavs were already up four. I’m not a doctor, and his decision turned out to be the right one. There is a little part of me that wishes he’d just have taken the FT righty, but only he knows how bad he was hurting.
Anyways, Cavs win. Cavs advance. Series over. I sweated through my t-shirt. Another round. Another challenge. One step closer.
-Game ball goes to Antawn Jamison. This is why the Cavs got him. He made his threes, he cut to the basket, he carried the Cavs at times, and he made his free throws. When the Cavs needed baskets late, they went to him and he delivered. Great game for Antawn.
-How about Shaq going 7-9 from the floor? And getting a team-best +8? The Bulls were able to punish him on pick-and-rolls in the fourth and Shaq turned it over a few times, but he looked very strong posting up tonight. That’s a great sign.
-Good, not great game from LeBron. He made some nice passes early, and some big baskets late. He closed out late on Deng a few times, but did a good job on Rose down the stretch. The six missed free throws aren’t great, but he made them when it counted. At least the ones he shot righty.
-Delonte! There we go! He hit threes and made hustle plays. He defended Rose beautifully; according to ESPN stats and information, Rose went 1-8 with two turnovers when Delonte was defending him. He was everywhere on the court, and did everything he was supposed to.
-Andy. No. This was not good. He drove the Boston bigs crazy with his activity when the Cavs and Celtics played each other in the regular season. Hopefully he can find some of that in round two.
-Mo had a very bad night from the floor. Those will happen. Fortunately, this was a game where the Cavs could (barely) afford Mo’s shot being off.
Bullets of Randomness:
-Derrick Rose: 31 points on 27 shots. I continue to be okay with that.
-Noah: four field goals, seven turnovers, five fouls. He bleeds! He is human! Seriously, good job by the Cavs to keep a body on him at all times.
Alright, that’s it for this series. Here come the Celtics. Get ready. Until later, folks.