Final Dime: Cavaliers 96, Bulls 83


LeBron James led Cleveland with 24 points in Saturday's Game 1 win.
David Liam Kyle
NBAE/Getty Images
1. Size matters, especially in the NBA. And in Saturday’s Game 1 in Cleveland, the Cavaliers controlled the Bulls with their bigs – running out to a 22-point lead and holding on for the 96-83 series-opening win.

The Cavaliers starting frontline of LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison (plus Anderson Varejao off the bench) combined for 60 points, 36 boards and 11 blocked shots – dominating Chicago’s big men for most of the afternoon.

“That’s something that we have been looking forward to all season – seeing how the size we play differs between last year in the postseason and this year,” said James. “We have a lot of size, and we have a lot of depth in the frontcourt and in the backcourt and it showed today.”

The Bulls went to a zone defense in the third quarter, but by then Mo Williams had begun heating up, canning all three attempts in the fourth quarter – including a trey to put Cleveland up 13 with 1:53 to play – giving the Wine and Gold all the room they’d need.

Chicago tied the game at 8-8 in the early going, but the Cavaliers outscored them 24-10 to close out the quarter. Just after halftime, Cleveland extended its lead to 22.

But the Cavaliers cooled off and Chicago’s Derrick Rose began to heat up – drawing the Bulls to within seven, 78-71, midway through the fourth. At that point, the combination of James and Mo Williams took over, willing the Wine and Gold to the Game 1 win.

LeBron led Cleveland with 24 points, going 9-for-19 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the stripe. James attempted just one three-pointer in 40 minutes of action, adding six boards five assists and a game-high four blocked shots.

Mo scored seven of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, notching a team-high ten assists, four boards and a steal. Williams was 8-for-14 from the floor and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc.

A slimmed-down Shaquille O’Neal – seeing his first action since late February – didn’t seem to miss a beat, chipping in with 12 points, five boards and four assists, simultaneously keeping Chicago’s Joakim Noah in foul trouble through the balance of the afternoon.

“Tonight was a night where we could all see the hard work that (Shaq) has put in the last six to eight weeks,” praised Coach Mike Brown. “He’s been terrific working his tail off getting ready for this.”

“I felt pretty good,” added O’Neal. “Uncle Jerome had me on the three-day workout and special diet. This is very vital for me, vital for everybody. I wanted to come back extra, extra ready so I did some things I don’t usually do.”

Anderson Varejao led Cleveland’s reserves with eight points and a game-high 15 boards.

Overall, the Cavaliers out-rebounded the Bulls – 50-38 – and dominated them, 42-26, on points in the paint. Cleveland blocked 12 shots to Chicago’s four and held them to just 1-of-7 shooting from long-distance.

Derrick Rose led everyone with 28 points, adding 10 assists and seven boards. The sophomore sensation from Memphis also turned the ball over seven times.

Before the series tipped off, LeBron said the Bulls would be facing “a different animal” beginning this weekend. That was the case on Saturday, and the Cavaliers will try to unleash it again on Monday night.

2. Saturday’s win snaps a nine-game postseason losing streak to the Bulls. The last time Cleveland topped Chicago in the Playoffs was May 25, 1992. The Cavaliers have never beaten the Bulls in a Game 1.

3. LeBron set a personal postseason best with four blocked shots and has now scored 20 or more points in 21 straight playoff games.

4. Mo Williams talked about putting last season’s playoffs behind him, and did so on Saturday – netting his first playoff double-double and setting a personal postseason mark with 10 assists.

Mo also had the quote of the early postseason on Saturday, drawing an interesting parallel to his playoff experience. “People always ask me what did I get from last year and I say the experience from the series,” quipped Mo. “You have to go through things like that. That was something that I had never been through in my life. It’s just like having your first child. Now I have four, so the other three were pretty easy.”

5. LeBron improved his career record to 7-5 in Game 1's.

6. Much was made between the bad blood between LeBron and Joakim Noah, but it was Brad Miller and James who tangled up with just under eight minutes to play in the second quarter. The Bulls players and Cavaliers’ bench exchanged words, but there was no further incident.

7. At 29.4 ppg, LeBron came into Saturday’s contest as the third-leading career playoff scorer – behind only Michael Jordan (33.4) and Allen Iverson (29.7).

8. On Saturday, Shaq suited up for his 204th career playoff game, marking his 16th year in the postseason. He’s 123-81 all-time, averaging 25.2 points and 12.0 boards per contest.

9. Anderson Varejao had a rock-solid playoff debut, grabbing a career-high 15 boards, adding two steals and a blocked shot.

10. The Cavaliers have now won 17 of their last 21 games in the First Round, winning their last six by at least 11 points.