Game 4: Cavs at Bulls
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (2-2) 86, CHICAGO BULLS (2-2) 84
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
1. This was the biggest game of the season for the Cavaliers. They couldn't afford to fall behind 3-1 in the series. They tried to give it to the Bulls, but in the end, LeBron James' 21-foot jumper from the corner won it with :00.1 left on the clock. It was the third time in his playoff career that he's won a game at the buzzer. It was a fantastic finish in the nip-and-tuck game. The series is now tied, 2-2, heading back to Cleveland for Game 5 on Tuesday.
2. I made the comment earlier in the day that the Cavs couldn't win with Kyrie Irving scoring 11 points like he did in Game 3. Well, he had 12 today and the Cavs won. He was 2 of 10 from the field and wasn't much of a factor in the game. But he was out there battling right to the end. He played 41 minutes on his strained right foot. He said it's been bothering him for more than a week. Not being 100 percent and going head-to-head with Derrick Rose is cruel and unjust. The Cavs recognized that and finally put Iman Shumpert on Rose, who had a game-high 31 points. Irving has no explosiveness whatsoever.
3. This has been a series of adjustments for the Cavs. First, it was to find a replacement for Kevin Love (dislocated shoulder). It took David Blatt two games to figure that out, first going with Mike Miller (huh?) and finally settling on Tristan Thompson. Then, he had to find a replacement for J.R. Smith, who was suspended for the first two games of the series. Iman Shumpert was an obvious choice to step in for his former New York teammate. Then Shumpert strained his left groin. Smith had a 12-day layoff in between games. Blatt has stuck with Shumpert in the starting lineup. He said he didn't want Shump to warm up, cool down and then try to enter the game. Problem is, he hasn't been as effective as he was in the first two games. He also seemed to aggravate his injury in Sunday's game. But even on one leg, the guy defends.
4. Smith got off to a slow start when he entered the game on Sunday, but once he caught fire, he was deadly. He had 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter. He was 3 of 6 from the 3-point line. The Cavs were horrible from behind the arc - 5 of 25.
5. James finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, one steal and two blocks. His game-winning shot was a thing of beauty. He said he told teammate Matthew Dellavedova to get him the ball. "I'm going to win it," he said. The play was drawn up for James to take the ball out? What? Was Blatt drawing up the last shot for Delly?
6. The Cavs had a six-point lead in the fourth quarter, but couldn't put the Bulls away. James' offensive foul (his eighth turnover) with 14 seconds left could have cost the Cavs the game.
7. How about using all three of their remaining timeouts on the inbounds plays? Then seconds later, Coach David Blatt tried to call time out, only to be stopped by assistant coach Tyronn Lue. That would have resulted in a costly technical foul, and again it could have cost them the game.
8. In the last two games, James is 18 of 55 from the field, 1 of 14 from behind the arc (2 of 19 in the series) and has committed 15 turnovers. He's carrying too much of a burden, and he's breaking down. He also turned his left ankle in the game and refused to come out. The Cavs hope he can recover quickly because they have a chance to take a 3-2 edge in this series with a win on Tuesday.
9. The team that has won the rebounding battle has won every game in this series. The Cavs won the battle of the boards on Sunday, 44-40. It helped that Bulls forward/center Pau Gasol (hamstring) missed the game.
10. James (1,081) is now fourth on the NBA's all-time list in playoff assists. In this postseason alone, he's moved past Tony Parker, Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. That's quite a list.
UP NEXT: Game 5, vs. Chicago, Eastern Conference semifinals, Quicken Loans Arena, Tuesday, May 12, 7 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 Pau Gasol