This was an emotionally charged game. Playing in a cauldron called Quicken Loans Arena, in front of rabid Cavs fans, Cleveland held on to win Game 5, 106-1o1. The Cavs take a 3-2 lead in this hotly contested series and will play Game 6 at the United Center.
LeBron James practically carried Cleveland on his back to will this win. James scored 38 points in a brilliant display of clutch basketball. He made all kinds of shots. Perhaps his biggest play was a block on Derrick Rose. Rose had the ball, playing with an injured right wrist, and put up a shot that might have tied the game, with the Cavs clinging to a 101-99 lead. But James appeared out of nowhere and swatted the ball away to the delight of the home crowd. It was an emphatic play that typified James’ night.
Kyrie Irving played banged up but you wouldn’t have known it. He scored 25 points on some nifty moves to the hoop. His injured foot magically healed in two days.
This game got rough when Taj Gibson and Matthew Dellavedov tangled up under the basket. Gibson gave a shove and was ejected after officials reviewed the play. Up that point, Gibson played well in the low post, filling in for the injured Pau Gasol.
Rose hurt his right wrist in the 2nd half but continued to play. He could pass the ball but did not have the flexibility to make a shot. However, Chicago fought back from a 17 point hole with 8 minutes left in the game to make it interesting.
The Cleveland fans who were so boisterous earlier, were left gaping at the Bulls steady comeback. Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy provided most of the offense. Butler, who defended James, had 29 points and Dunleavy scored 19 points on five for eight from the field. The Cavs, who shot 50% for the game, had cooled off and that enabled the Bulls to make a charge. But it was not enough.
The Cavs supporting cast played well. Iman Shumpert had some big baskets and JR Smith seemed to make a shot just when Cleveland needed it. They combined for 25 points.
But this was James’ game. He was the man tonight. He simply wouldn’t let Cleveland lose. He had no turnovers and was all over the court playing on a sore ankle.
Rose started off great, making almost every shot he took. He had 16 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists in 42:30. Butler had 29 points and 9 boards in 41:08. Joakim Noah, who was heavily booed every time he touched the ball had a good night with 10 points and 9 rebounds.
The Bulls just could not make the right play when it needed to. Cleveland came up with the key loose balls and rebounds. And some player made a trey and the crowd roared.
Chicago shot 39.5% from the floor, not enough to win a playoff game on the road. “We gotta make shots,” said Coach Tom Thibodeau before the game. They didn’t and LeBron carried the night.
This hard-fought series continues on Thursday night back in Chicago for Game 6. Rose’s status is unknown at this time.
I can take LBJ finally having a great all-around game because he was due. What is hard to swallow is that he continue to go long stretches without scoring and the fact that Gasol’s fill-ins have not gotten the job done, which is putting it mildly. These trends have to be eliminated if they hope to win Game 6.
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