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By Sam Smith | 5.4.2015 | 8:29 p.m.
The Bulls Monday after a fast start held on in a rugged finish for a 99-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Game 2 is in Cleveland Wednesday.
The Bulls were led by Derrick Rose with 25 points. Rose appeared to suffer a shoulder injury late in the game, though it didn’t appear serious. The Bulls got 20 points and nine crucial fourth quarter points from Jimmy Butler and 21 points and 10 rebounds from Pau Gasol. Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 30. LeBron James had 19 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.
The Bulls got off to a hot start with Dunleavy and Rose making threes for a10-2 lead and 27-15 after one quarter with Dunleavy scoring 13 in the first. The Bulls shot 52 percent and were five of seven on threes while the Cavs with Mike Miller a surprise—and ineffective—starter shot 25 percent. It was the Cavs’ lowest scoring quarter of the season. The Cavs came back strong in the second quarter behind Kyrie Irving attacking the basket and scoring 10 straight for the Cavs to get within 39-33. Then it was a matter of the Bulls holding on and keeping a 49-44 halftime lead. The Cavs came out quickly after halftime to tie the game at 53. The Bulls then scored 15 straight on the shooting of Rose and Gasol for a 68-53 lead before the Cavs got within 81-70 entering the fourth quarter. The Cavs pulled within 88-86 with 5:21 left. But Butler with a big defensive play on Kyrie Irving and a three put the Bulls ahead 92-86.
1. The Cavs’ big men kept dropping off the hot shooting Pau Gasol to the point there was a murmur in the arena every time Gasol got a shot, obviously fearing another jumper. Gasol had 19 points and 10 rebounds through three quarters.
2. LeBron James for much of the game played off the Bulls top scorers, defending Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich to both rest and try to play the passing lanes for steals. When James does that his man must get involved offensively.
3. The Bulls played soft defense on Kyrie Irving, who had 17 in the first half, failing to pressure even as the Cavs had so few scorers on the floor with Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out.