Game 3: Cavs at Bulls
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
CHICAGO BULLS (2-1) 99, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (1-2) 96
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
1. Coach Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls spent more than an hour in practice on Thursday devising ways to slow down LeBron James. He finished with 27 points, but was just 8 of 25 from the field, 1 of 7 from behind the arc. In case you were keeping score at home, he's 1 of 12 from the 3-point line in this series. It's hard to nitpick his performance on Friday. He dished out 14 assists and pulled down eight rebounds. However, he committed seven of the Cavs' 11 turnovers. He can't continue to turn the ball over if the Cavs expect to win. Not all of them were "attack" turnovers, either.
2. The biggest impact on the game wasn't so much James' play. It was Kyrie Irving's lackluster performance. He managed just 11 points and no assists. He shot 3 of 11 from the field. Coach David Blatt said he's been dealing with a "foot" injury. Irving also turned his ankle in the first quarter. His meager showing put more burden on James - as if he doesn't have enough pressure on him already.
3. Irving did convert 3 of 4 from behind the arc. In fact, the Cavs were 14 of 34 from long distance. That's usually enough to win the game. They outscored the Bulls from behind the arc, 52-18. However, the only 3-ball that really mattered was Derrick Rose's that slammed in off the glass at the buzzer.
4. The difference in the game was in the rebounding department. The Bulls outrebounded the Cavs, 54-39, including an 18-9 edge on the offensive glass. Other than Tristan Thompson's yeoman's effort (game-high 13 rebounds, four offensive), there wasn't much to say about the Cavs' effort on the boards.
5. Blatt decided to leave Iman Shumpert in the starting lineup at shooting guard. He wasn't the same player as he was in the first two games of the series. He ended with eight points, playing on his strained left groin. Some thought he might not play in Game 3. Shump averaged 18.3 points in the first two games of the series. Most observers figured J.R. Smith would start. He was remarkably good for being out for 12 days. He had 14 points and made 4 of 8 from behind the arc. His 3-pointer with 10 seconds left knotted the score at 96.
6. NBA players are superstitious. That includes James. That's why I figured he'd wear his headband in Sunday's game. After all, he had 33 points in Game 2. Enough said.
7. Much had been written and discussed about Rose playing on one day's rest, as opposed to two. He's a completely different player with two days rest. He also hadn't been to the foul line in the last three games for the first time in his career. He might have been the best player on the court tonight with 30 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He was also 9 of 10 from the foul line. I figured the Bulls were going to come out more aggressive than they did in the first two games. They didn't want to be embarrassed at home.
8. James (1,073) moved into fourth overall in all-time playoff assists. He passed No. 6 Tony Parker (1,059), No. 5 Steve Nash (1,061) and No. 4 Larry Bird (1,062) on Sunday.
9. Guard Matthew Dellavedova had nine points and nine assists in Game 2. The nine assists were the most ever by a Cavs' reserve player, surpassing Darnell Valentine's mark of eight on May 3, 1989, in Chicago. Delly was strong again on Friday with 10 points and four assists. That gives him 13 in the last two games - 10 more than Irving.
10. The Cavs' bench actually outscored Chicago, 32-23. When was the last time that happened?
UP NEXT: Game 4, at Chicago, Eastern Conference semifinals, United Center, Sunday, May 10, 3:30 p.m.
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Mike Dunleavy (6-9, 230)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Joakim Noah (6-11, 232)
SG Iman Shumpert (6-5, 220) vs. Jimmy Butler (6-7, 220)
Bulls - F/C Cameron Bairstow