Final Dime: Cavaliers 112, Bulls 102
Jamario Moon went 4-for-5 from long-distance in Monday's win.
David Liam Kyle
The Bulls gave Cleveland all they could handle for three-and-a-half quarters in Game 2 of their First Round matchup. Then, LeBron James came off the bench.
The reigning (and future) MVP proceeded to score 15 points over the next eight minutes – willing the Wine and Gold to the 112-102 win on Monday night at The Q.
The Central Division rivals take their brewing bad blood back to the Windy City for Game 3 on Thursday night.
After getting a brief rest to start the fourth quarter, LeBron found a comfortable spot not far from the Bulls bench, and proceeded to can five of his next seven shots – including a back-breaking three-pointer with 4:30 to play that put Cleveland up six, 99-93. Chicago would get no closer.
“(The Bulls) were talking the whole game,” explained James. “Every time I caught the ball over there (by the Bulls’ bench), they were daring me to shoot the ball. So that’s what I did. They asked me to shoot a jumper and I did that, over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.”
The Cavaliers had a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter, but the Bulls scrapped back to cut Cleveland’s lead to a deuce at intermission. Neither team got more than three points apart from the other in the third quarter, and the score was appropriately tied at 77-apiece heading into the fourth.
The score stayed close through the first half of the final period, but LeBron’s late barrage put the win on ice for Cleveland.
Of course, Number 23 wasn’t alone in tormenting the Bulls. He was joined by Jamario Moon – who canned a pair of huge threes and made some key defensive plays down the stretch. (For continuity’s sake, Moon modeled his game after his idol: Scottie Pippen.)
LeBron again put up jaw-dropping numbers – going 16-for-23 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from long-distance, adding eight boards, eight assists, a steal and two blocked shots.
“The fun and exciting thing about it was that in the playoffs, everybody knows what play is coming,” quipped Coach Mike Brown. “A lot of times, it’s about can you stop the players on the other team? We didn’t do anything tricky. We just came down and threw (LeBron) the ball and he made plays in crunch minutes.”
Moon scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter to lead Cleveland’s reserves. Antawn Jamison added 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting and Mo Williams rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures with a dozen.
Cleveland shot 56 percent from the floor – 67 percent in the fourth quarter – en route to the Game 2 win. The Cavaliers shot an even 50 percent from beyond the arc, but had the tables turned on them in the paint, where they were outscored, 56-38. The Bulls also committed just four turnovers on the evening.
The Cavaliers will try to put Chicago’s fate further in peril on Thursday night, when they travel to the United Center.
2. The Wine and Gold have now won 18 of their last 22 First Round matchups and have won 11 of their last 12 at The Q. Since the 2006 Playoffs, the Cavaliers are 24-7 at home.
3. The Cavaliers are looking to reverse a very one-sided trend by knocking off the Bulls in the postseason. In five playoff meetings, Cleveland has never prevailed and is tied with the Nuggets, who have not beaten the Lakers in five attempts.
4. LeBron has now netted 20 points or more in 22 straight playoff games. Over that stretch – from May 8, 2008 until now – he’s averaging 33.3 points, 8.1 boards and 7.2 assists per contest.
5. The Cavaliers have never lost a playoff series (9-0) after winning Game 1. Conversely, they’re 2-17 in series when they’ve dropped Game 1.
6. One of the stranger stats states that, historically, teams with two MVPs and two overall No. 1 draft picks have all won at least one title. The early-70s Bucks had Kareem and Oscar Roberston, the late-80s Lakers had Kareem and Magic, the Spurs featured Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
7. Joakim Noah didn’t back off his comments one bit following Monday’s loss. When asked to elaborate again on Cleveland, Noah responded: “You like it? You think Cleveland is cool? I’ve never heard anyone say I’m going to Cleveland on vacation. What’s so good about Cleveland?”
8. LeBron gave Bulls rookie James Johnson a little souvenir from their first round meeting – a monstrous right-handed dunk just before halftime. The jam was reminiscent of the one LeBron crushed over Kevin Garnett in the 2008 Conference Semis against Boston.
9. Jamario Moon finished 4-for-5 from the floor to notch his playoff-high 12 points. Moon also grabbed three boards and blocked a pair of shots, including a crowd-pleasing rejection of Noah midway through the fourth.
“Coming from where I came from and the road that it took for me to get here, it feels great,” said the well-traveled swingman. “To understand the opportunity that this team has this season, it feels wonderful.”
10. One of the concerns Cleveland had going into the postseason was their regular season struggles at the stripe. They answered those questions on Monday – shooting 92 percent from the line, including a perfect 7-of-7 in the fourth. LeBron (6-6), Mo (8-8) and even Shaq (4-4) were perfect on the evening.