Final Dime: Cavaliers 121, Bulls 98


Mo Williams netted 19 points in Sunday's Game 4 win over Chicago.
Joe Murphy
NBAE/Getty Images
1. It’s not a chicken-and-the-egg thing. Actually, the Cavaliers’ recipe for success is incredibly simple: When they play great defense, they play better offense.

Game 4 in Chicago started out the same way that Game 3 ended – with both clubs slugging it out. But just before intermission, the Cavaliers turned up the heat defensively, using a 14-6 run to turn a one-point deficit into a 10-point lead and never looking back.

When the smoke had cleared in Chicago – the Wine and Gold had taken control of the series with the 121-98 blowout at a stunned United Center.

Cleveland held the Bulls to just 37 percent shooting on the night; 32 percent in the third period. At the same time, the Cavaliers scored a combined 75 points in the middle two quarters.

LeBron James turned in yet another Herculean performance – notching his fifth career postseason triple-double with 37 points, 12 boards and 11 assists.

James put the finishing touches on his masterpiece in the fourth quarter.

After beating the buzzer to shock the crowd with a 45-foot jumper to end the third – putting Cleveland up 23 – LeBron came out in the final quarter, canning three more three-pointers to close out the Bulls in Game 4 – and maybe the series.

On the afternoon, the reigning MVP was 11-of-17 from the floor, including 6-of-9 from long-distance, and 9-for-10 from the stripe – adding two steals and a blocked shot.

“I hate to ever downplay anything (LeBron) does, his triple-double tonight was terrific,” praised Coach Mike Brown. “It was a spectacular performance.”

James got plenty of help on Sunday, with Antawn Jamison adding 24 points on 9-of-16 from the floor to go with seven boards and a team-high two blocks.

“(Jamison) was great, he was the X factor,” praised James. “It's hard to cover him. He goes around 3's and over 4's. I'm glad he’s on our side because I’ve been on the other side of him for years.”

Mo Willliams stayed strong in the series, pitching in with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting, going 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. Chicago-area native, Anthony Parker rounded out the Cavaliers starters in double-figures with 12 points.

The trio of LeBron, Mo and A.P. finished 11-for-18 from long-distance. As a team, the Cavaliers shot 53 percent from the floor and 74 percent from the stripe.

Cleveland’s major defensive concern was the Bulls backcourt duo of Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich. And on Sunday, the Wine and Gold did their best to keep them under control. Kirk Hinrich was just 3-of-12 in Game 4 after going 9-of-12 on Thursday. Rose finished with 21 points, but it took him 20 shots to get there.

Joakim Noah recorded the first 20-20 game in Bulls playoff history, finishing with 21 points and 20 boards.

The Cavaliers were doubled-up on fastbreak points (23-12) and points in the paint (24-10) and were out-rebounded, 49-41. But Cleveland’s tenacious defense, combined with another prolific performance by their leader pushed the Bulls to the brink of elimination.

The two clubs will face off again on Tuesday night at The Q, where the Cavaliers will look to close Chicago out in five.

2. LeBron has now gone 24 straight playoff games with at least 20 points, easily the NBA’s longest streak. Over that stretch, which began in May 2008, James is averaging 33.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.8 steals per contest.

3. Though they fell big at the United Center on Sunday, the Bulls are an NBA-best 108-36 in home playoff games all-time.

4. Through the first four games of the series, the Cavaliers are shooting .497 from the floor, .408 from beyond the arc and .745 from the free throw line.

5. “Ari” of the iconic HBO series, “Entourage” was in the celebrity seat Ron Howard sat in on Thursday (about two down from Cavaliers trainer, Max Benton). He donned a Bulls cap, of course.

6. J.J. Hickson got the longest playoff run of his young career, going 3-for-4 from the field and 4-of-4 from the stripe for 10 points in 17 productive minutes.

7. Sunday’s win was just the Cavaliers third playoff win in 14 postseason games at the United Center.

8. LeBron’s triple-double was the fifth of his playoff career and 33rd overall. James – who was one off his personal playoff high with six three-pointers – notched a triple-double in the first playoff game of his career in 2006. Sunday’s was his first this postseason.

9. Antawn Jamison is having a stellar First Round series in his first playoff appearance with the Wine and Gold – averaging 18.0 points and 8.0 boards through four games.

10. LeBron silenced the United Center crowd when he pulled up for his halfcourt jumper to end the third quarter. James took his time and squared up the 45-footer, later claiming that the shot was well within his range.

“I can comfortably shoot that shot from halfcourt,” smiled James, without a hint of pretension. “It was a regular jumpshot (for me). I can comfortably walk into a three-point jumpshot from halfcourt.”