Recap of the Cavs- Bulls Series
By Eric Yearian
LeBron James stepped to the free throw line and knocked down his first free throw to stretch the lead to four, virtually ensuring his Cavs would advance. What he did next, well that gives Cleveland fans something to worry about.
Game 4: Chicago stunned Cleveland in game 3, jumping on them from the very start of the game. The Cavaliers weren’t about to witness a re-run of that performance, and they were led by LeBron James’ triple double. Cleveland erupted for a 121-98 victory in the Windy City. Antawn Jamison chipped in 24 points, 7 rebounds, and Mo Williams added 19. Chicago countered with Joakim Noah’s 21 point, 20 rebound night and Derrick Rose matched it with 21 points of his own. Mike Brown shuffled his lineup a little bit as J.J. Hickson, the young, athletic big man, replaced veteran Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the rotation. Hickson chipped in 10 points in 17 minutes while Ilgauskas remained glued to the bench until the game was already decided. Cleveland piled it on, shooting a scorching 53% for the game while holding the Bulls to 37%.
The Bulls did keep it close throughout the first quarter as they were down three after one. Even through the second quarter the Bulls were within striking distance. Halftime did not treat them well, however, as Cleveland came out and their body language was different. This was a team on a mission and nobody was going to stop them on this night. LeBron James and company put on a show, scoring 37 third quarter points—capped off with a dagger by #23. With time running out in the third quarter, the Cavs got the ball in the hands of their best player and he made the Bulls pay for it. James dribbled down the court, stopped suddenly and pulled up for a jumpshot over the outstretched arm of a Bulls defender. James has done that plenty of times, so what was so special about it? Well, for one, it was a jumpshot from midcourt. It wasn’t a running heave, or anything like that, it was a jumpshot just like one he would release from the top of the key. When that shot went down, you could see it in the faces of the Bulls: they didn’t think they had a chance against a man who looked inhuman on the basketball court.
Game 5: As superhuman as James may have looked in game 4, he came back down to earth in game 5 in Cleveland. His stats didn’t show it, as he once again flirted with a triple double (19 pts, 10 rebs, and 9 asts). However, his actions on the court did. Throughout the game he favored his right elbow as he went 8-14 from the free throw line. The Bulls did their best to take advantage of the King’s injured state, as they came out with an inspired effort with their season on the line. Luol Deng, who had been quiet in the series, went off for 26 points and 6 rebounds. Rose was his usual, stellar self, putting up 31 points in the loss. The two Bulls couldn’t do it alone, however, as Noah disappeared for large portions of the game. While Deng and Rose were trying to be heroes for the Bulls, LeBron’s supporting cast came to their injured star’s aid. Shaq reemerged with 14 and 8, while Antawn Jamison continued to work well with James and Delonte West came off the bench to provide a spark for the Cavs.
The Bulls kept it close, but in the end, the Cavs were simply too much—even with James hurting. Cleveland was up late in the game with James at the line. He calmly stepped to the line and knocked down the first shot. Immediately after releasing it, he felt discomfort and numbness in his arm and when he couldn’t communicate to coach Mike Brown that he needed a timeout, he put his left hand to the test. In an effort to spare himself some pain, he took the second free throw with his off-hand. It wasn’t pretty and it clanked off the rim. With the Cavs up four, it ended up being a non-issue and Cleveland escaped with a 96-94 victory. Now, with their superstar trying to heal as quickly as possible, the Cavaliers are set to take on the Boston Celtics in the second round and the Bulls are heading back to Chicago with plenty of questions surrounding what’s going to happen with their volatile coaching situation.