Quantcast 2010 Cleveland Cavaliers: Cavs vs Bulls

 

NBA Playoff Recap - East First Round

(8) Chicago 108, (1) Cleveland 106 - Cavs lead series, 2-1

 

 

After seeing the Cleveland Cavaliers struggle through each of their first two games against the Chicago Bulls, the rampant talk of a sweep which pervaded the pre-series environment suddenly gave way to the notion that the eighth seed could actually win a game.

Thursday night at the United Center, that talk was validated and justified.

Cleveland's string of so-so performances continued in the first round of the postseason, and because the Cavs stood inside the hostile environment of a road arena, they didn't walk away with the victory they gained in games 1 and 2. Coach Vinny Del Negro's Bulls were good enough to outlast Mike Brown's bunch and suddenly throw a big jolt of intrigue into a series many scribes - this one included - pegged as a foregone conclusion.

The Cavs simply have to elevate their game; there's no other way to say it. It bears mentioning that in the 2009 playoffs, Cleveland swept each of its first two series with precious little resistance (against Detroit in round one and versus Atlanta in round two). Because of the lack of a good test, the Cavs seemed ill-prepared to receive a full-bore challenge from the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. This loss to Chicago is worrisome on an immediate level, but in the big picture, it could actually enable LeBron James and friends to lift their level of play and establish the higher standard they'll need in order to get back to (and then win) the NBA Finals.

 

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Why did Cleveland come up short? Well, outside of LeBron - who scored 39 points on Thursday and tallied 13 in the fourth quarter - only one man played big in the fourth quarter. Antawn Jamison - picked up in midseason from Washington - scored 11 points in the final period and played a mean two-man game with LeBron, as the Cavs rallied. Down by 11 after three quarters, the top seed in the East made a bold push and got within two points - at 94-92 - with just over four minutes remaining in regulation.

This is when the Bulls' superior balance kicked in.



Chicago got three prime-time performances from Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Kirk Hinrich. The three sharpshooters went 31 of 54 from the field (well over 50 percent) and hit clutch baskets time and again for the No. 8 seed. When Cleveland made its big comeback, Deng and Rose were particularly instrumental in recapturing scoreboard leverage for the Bulls. Deng scored on a one-hand push shot in the lane to give Chicago a 96-92 cushion, and Rose followed with a pair of ice-veins baskets to extend the home team's lead to 100-92. The Cavs got within two again - at 104-102 - with just 11 seconds to go, but the Bulls hit enough foul shots to snatch their first win of the series and create real drama for Game 4 on Sunday.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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