NBA Playoff Recap - East First Round - Game 4
(1) Cleveland 121, (8) Chicago 98 - Cavs lead series, 3-1
For the first 19 minutes of Sunday afternoon's game in the United Center, it seemed as though an evenly-played series was going to continue along the battle lines that had already been established.
The Chicago Bulls, who competed well in Cleveland and then won Game 3 in the Windy City on Thursday night, were once again going toe to toe with the Cleveland Cavaliers, owners of the NBA's best regular-season record for the second straight year. The Cavs' normally smothering defense was failing to solve Chicago's multi-pronged attack, and the Bulls - playing at home before another large and jacked-up crowd - were only gaining more and more confidence in their battle against Goliath. A series that felt like a sweep before it started was heading toward a 2-2 tie, or at the very least, a photo finish in a Game 4 thriller.
The Cavs were sweating bullets as they trailed, 43-40, with five minutes left in the second quarter. A certain sense of discomfort had to pervade an anxious Cleveland bench... not to mention the hearts of Clevelanders who have had their hearts broken so many times in the world of professional sports.
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Then, after 19 decidedly shaky minutes from his team, LeBron James put an end to Cleveland's fear and panic with one of his best-ever playoff performances. A great player put his stamp on a series, busting out his A-game at the best possible moment.
Having scored just eight points in the first one and a half quarters, LeBron tallied 29 points in the game's final 29 minutes en route to a 37-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist masterpiece. King James lorded himself over the rest of the proceedings, rallying Cleveland to a 62-52 halftime lead with a scoring flurry and then delivering a memorable knockout blow at the end of the third quarter.
With the clock ticking down, LeBron crossed the midcourt line and - shooting a normal jump shot as opposed to an awkward two-handed push shot - drained a 44-footer at the buzzer. Few players have the upper-body strength to shoot a 44-footer like a jumper, but few players own the rare combination of physical gifts that are manifested in the person of LeBron James. The remarkably matter-of-fact halfcourt bomb wowed the United Center crowd; even as the triple gave the Cavs a 99-76 lead after three periods and put an exclamation point on a series-deciding flourish. What had looked like a nailbiter - with the possibility of an even-steven series heading back to Ohio for Game 5 on Tuesday - abruptly became a laugher, as the Cavs took control of this best-of-seven battle.
We all know who was responsible for such a turn of events. It's good to be the King - right, LeBron?
By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer
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