Final Dime: Cavaliers 96, Bulls 94
Antawn Jamison led Cleveland with 25 points in Tuesday's Game 5 win.
David Liam Kyle
The Wine and Gold knew the series wouldn’t be easy, and it wasn’t. The feisty young Bulls trailed by a dozen in the second quarter and by nine with 3:29 to play, but continued to claw their way back. It wasn’t until LeBron James split a pair of free throws with 7.8 to play that the Cavaliers got enough breathing space.
Luol Deng hit a meaningless bucket at the buzzer to make the final, 96-94, as the Wine and Gold move forward – knocking the Bulls out in five games.
Coming off an amazing 37-point triple-double in Sunday’s Game 4 blowout, LeBron never fully got untracked on Tuesday night. James finished with 19 points – notching 16 in the second half – barely missing his second straight trifecta with 10 boards, nine assists and a pair of blocked shots.
“We knew (the Bulls) were going to give it their all,” said LeBron. “They were at the end of their rope, and we knew that we were going to get their whole fight.”
The Cavaliers led by seven at half, but shot just 29 percent in the third quarter and led by just a deuce after three. The Bulls grabbed the lead briefly, but an Antawn Jamison three-pointer with just over three to play gave Cleveland the 93-84 lead.
But Luol Deng and Derrick Rose led an 8-0 run to get back to within a point. That would be the last meaningful points the Bulls would score, however, as LeBron hit three of his next four free throws to ice the win – and the series.
LeBron shot his last free throw of the evening left-handed, after aggravating the right elbow that he tweaked in Sunday’s win in Chicago.
Antawn Jamison capped a strong first series with the Wine and Gold – leading Cleveland with 25 points on 8-for-14 shooting. The Cavaliers former First Round nemesis added five boards, a pair of steals and a blocked shot.
“Sometimes the ball comes your way like it did in the first half and I got into a rhythm,” said Jamison. “LeBron said in the huddle to keep going at them and I was able to get comfortable and knock down some shots.”
Shaquille O’Neal had his best outing since Game 1 – notching 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting and frustrating Chicago on the blocks, helping to foul out both Brad Miller and Taj Gibson. Miller picked up two fouls in six seconds during the third quarter.
“I’ve been here 17 years now,” said the Diesel. “I’ve been of the mindset that when I take it and go, you’re either going to have to foul me or let me go.”
The Cavaliers got good production from their bench, namely Delonte West – who went 6-of-11 from the floor for 16 points and four assists.
The Bulls were led once again by their budding superstar, Derrick Rose, who finished with 31 points on 12-for-27 shooting. Joakim Noah – who was naturally booed every time he touched the ball – had a pedestrian eight-point, nine-rebound performance.
The Cavaliers will welcome the Celtics for Game 1 on Saturday night at The Q. The two clubs split four contests this season, with each team winning a game on the opponent’s floor. Cleveland will be looking to avenge their ouster in the 2008 East Semifinals, which Boston took in seven games.
2. Antawn Jamison was exactly as-advertised in his first postseason appearance with Cleveland – averaging a robust 19.4 points and 7.4 boards through the First Round series.
3. The series win over Chicago comes after years of disappointment for the Cavaliers franchise, which dropped series to Jordan’s Bulls in 1988, ’89, ’92, ’93 and ’94.
4. The Cavaliers have now won 12 of their last 13 postseason games at The Q. Since the 2006 postseason, the Cavaliers are 25-7 at home, tied with the Lakers for the most wins in that span.
5. Anderson Varejao finished third in the voting for the Sixth Man Award, finishing behind Dallas’ Jason Terry and this year’s winner, Jamaal Crawford, who won the award easily, garnering 110 out of 122 first-place votes.
“He definitely deserves it,” praised Coach Brown. “He’s been a catalyst for what we’ve done here for many years and you look at his points per game and it’s not a ton compared to a lot of other guys, but he definitely has had an impact on us winning and losing. We’ve won a lot of games and you hope he gets the recognition.”
6. It’s been a productive three weeks for Jamario Moon. Since getting increased minutes in the final week of the season, Moon has averaged 9.2 ppg over his last nine games, shooting .576 from the floor in that span. Against Chicago, Moon shot .625, including .583 from long-distance.
7. Thursday’s Game 5 was the first time the Cavaliers had clinched a home series in front of the home fans since Game 6 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit.
8. When he missed his second free throw with 7.8 to play to give him 19 points, LeBron’s string of 20-point games, the longest in NBA, was snapped. Over that span, began on May 8, 2008, James had averaged 33.7 points per contest.
9. Delonte West, who always seems to play biggest in big games, had easily his best game of the Playoffs in Game 5 – cracking double-digits for the first time in the series. He went 2-of-5 from beyond the arc, including a big trey to end the third quarter that gave Cleveland back the lead.
10. Cavalier fans might have gone to bed nervous about LeBron’s injured elbow, but Number 23 made it all better after Tuesday’s win.
“I’m not concerned,” shrugged James. “I just want to try and get a better sense of what it may be, but Cleveland fans have nothing to be worried about. I’m healthy, I’m ready and we are looking forward to the second round. They don’t have any reason to panic.”