Cavs 96, Bulls 94
Call it an escape more than a victory. Or was it just a case of the being better than anyone wants to give them credit?
Yes, that's more likely to be the case because this young team showed that in the coming years they will probably be a force in the NBA even with the organization as dysfunctional as it is.
They played a ferocious game tonight and didn't give up despite the fact that the chances of them winning three consecutive games was nil. It helped that the Cavs got way from what they did to the Bulls in Game 4.
Part of that was using LeBron James and Antawn Jamison in pick-and-roll situations. Jamison scored 20 points in the first half and just five in the second. Defensively, they didn't pick things up until - you guessed it - the fourth quarter, but even then that almost wasn't enough as the Bulls played just as they were expected - like an obsessed animal.
But the big question: WHAT ABOUT LEBRON'S ELBOW?
He's not worried about it. He's had an MRI, X-rays and no structural damage exists.
No one is going to hazzard a guess, however. But the reality is that the elbow affected his play tonight whether he wants to admit it. There's a few days between now and the first meeting with the Celtics and James has some time to get some rest and be sure that they will baby it.
Cavs vs. Chicago Bulls Broadcast:
TV: FSOhio (for local flavor), TNT Radio: WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM).
Cavs: LeBron James (F); Antawn Jamison (F); Shaquille O'Neal (C); Anthony Parker (G); Mo Williams (G). Bulls: Luol Deng (F), Taj Gibson (F); Joakim Noah (C); Kirk Hinrich (G); Derrick Rose (G).
Bulls: Chicago said that they have no injury issues. In a possible close-out game that's true, but in reality not so much. Derrick Rose hurt his ankle in Sunday's game after stepping on Shaquille O'Neal's size 23 shoe. He had an MRI Monday as a precaution and had to sleep in a brace and keep it elevated the past couple of nights he said. Any wrong movement could aggravate the situation.
Forward Luol Deng is suffering from a sore calf, an injury he battled throughout the end of the season.
For what it's worth the Bulls were loose after their shootaround this morning at Quicken Loans Arena, whether that translates on the court remains to be seen.
For them to pull this out, they will have to do what every other team does - try to stop LeBron James. But they have more to worry about - in each subsequent game, Antawn Jamison has increased his production, reaching a peak - so far - with Sunday's 24-point performance against the Bulls. He discovered that Deng cannot guard him and he and LeBron James worked the pick-and-roll from the corner perfectly on several occasions. When not doing that, he was backing Deng up off the dribble and connecting on his shots.
Chicago's problem is that they can ill afford to focus on two players because then the third, Mo Williams in this case if he's on, will actually get them. It' s been more than two weeks since Shaquille O'Neal received clearance to play. He's getting shots, they just continue to rim out. Don't be surprised if they start falling.