Cavaliers Complete Season Sweep of Bulls
Cleveland 91, Chicago 72
CLEVELAND, March 5 (Ticker) -- For at least one game, LeBron James silenced critics of his fourth-quarter performances.
James scored 16 of his 37 points in the final period as the Cleveland Cavaliers completed their first sweep of the Chicago Bulls in seven seasons with a 91-72 triumph.
"Defensively, I took the challenge of (guarding) Ben Gordon," James said. "Offensively, I took the challenge of trying to put them away."
Cleveland broke open Sunday's tight affair late in the third period when Donyell Marshall began a 17-2 burst with a pair of 3-pointers.
The onslaught continued in the fourth quarter as James hit a short jumper, then assisted on another 3-pointer by Marshall, who scored 11 points.
"It feels good, but it's just one game," said Marshall, who is shooting just 32 percent from 3-point range. "I still need to get it more consistent, and I think part of the problem is that I am probably the hardest on myself more than anybody." The start of Cleveland's decisive run coincided with James having his headband re-arranged on a drive to the basket.
"(My headband) is like my cape," James said. "If you knock a superhero's cape off, they become very angry. My cape got knocked off."
James scored the game's next six points by taking advantage of the undersized Bulls. He had two dunks and a layup as the Cavaliers took a 74-60 advantage with 8:30 remaining.
"(James) was able to get in the paint and basically do what we wanted," Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich said. "He just kind of bullied us."
Cleveland never was threatened thereafter as it swept the season series from Chicago for the first time since the 1998-99 season.
Along with its problems in the interior, Chicago was hurt by abysmal free-throw shooting. The Bulls made just 7-of-19 from the line as they scored just 30 points after halftime en route to a season low in points.
"This win was a great birthday present," said Cleveland coach Mike Brown, who turned 36 on Sunday. "We had a tremendous effort, especially in the second half. Our guys stepped it up a notch. To hold this Bulls teams to 30 points in a half is unbelievable."
"We missed four (free throws) right off the bat in the first quarter," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "Tyson (Chandler) had I don't know how many layup attempts and wasn't able to dunk the ball or finish it."
Skiles also is concerned with the inconsistency of his team, which made the playoffs last season but is three games out of the Eastern Conference's final postseason spot.
"I'm concerned about this one good half, one bad half routine, one good quarter, one bad quarter that we've been in and just the carelessness with the ball," He said. "A lack of respect for the basketball out there was pretty amateurish."
Ben Gordon scored 17 points and Luol Deng collected 15 and 12 rebounds for Chicago (26-33), which has lost four of its last six games.