Bulls are kings for this day in beating Cavs


Apr 22

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The Cleveland Cavaliers after losing 108-106 to the Bulls Thursday in the opening round playoff series have decided to stay in Chicago and wait for Game 4, now a 2-1 lead in the series.

That’s right, the Cavs don’t want to go Cleveland, either.

But the Bulls have guaranteed at least a return trip for Game 5 with the victory.

“Can’t wait,” deadpanned Joakim Noah. “We can play with this team.”

The Bulls showed it for the second straight game, and this time got the victory and perhaps put a little concern in the heads of the Cavs by taking a 21-point third quarter lead and then holding on and making big plays down the stretch, including LeBron James trying to take on Derrick Rose and the Bulls All Star guard beating James twice in a row, first with a double fake move beating James and score and then a pull up jumper as Rose glided left across the lane and scored.

Those two scores gave the Bulls a 100-92 lead with 2:46 left, and then Luol Deng drew a charge against James and Joakim Noah stripped James on a drive and the Bulls were able to withstand three straight missed free throws to hang on for the victory.

“I was feeling good for the best player on their team to be sticking me,” said Rose, happily. “The best player in the NBA to be sticking me feels good. So why not take your shot at it.”

The Cavs did and Rose with 31 points, seven assists and zero turnovers won that mini battle as James scored 39 points, including 24 in the second half.

“We started the game too lax,” said James. “We didn’t have a sense of urgency. We didn’t have a lot of energy to start the game. As much as we crawled back in, it didn’t matter.

“I put myself on (Rose),” said James, whom many joke does coach the team. “They do a good job of exploiting what we do defensively. They did a good job of getting into the paint and hitting jump shots. Derrick Rose is hitting a lot of jump shots. Kirk (Hinrich, with 27 points on nine of 12 shooting) is hitting a lot of jump shots. (Giving up) 104 points is not out m.o. Shooting over 50 percent against us is not out m.o. They shot the ball really well from outside.”

The Bulls finished shooting 50 percent against a Cavs team that prides itself on defense.

They were virtually even in rebounding and the Bulls made five of 12 threes, with Hinrich a smokin’ four of four.

Deng scored 20 points while Shaquille O’Neal was again ineffective with six points and four rebounds and left on the bench in the fourth quarter as the Cavs tried to steal the game back playing small and spreading the court.

The Cavs did get within 94-92 with 4:17 left, but the Bulls never gave up the lead as Deng answered there with a drive past Anthony Parker and pullup seven footer before Rose’s two plays scores against James.

It was great theater as the two best players on the floor went at it, and Rose triumped.

“It surprised me a little bit (James guarding him),” said Rose. “But it was fun out there.”

Rose even was serenaded by fans with “MVP” chants after that sequence with Noah, typically, urging the fans to stand and yell as Rose outplayed the expected MVP, James for those moments.

It was special to see.

“I almost passed out (hearing that),” laughed Rose. “Maybe one year; not this year. I just want to win games right now.”

Hinrich did miss a pair of free throws with 36.9 seconds left and a 103-96 lead, and then Rose split a pair after a James there. Anderson Varejao then made one of two to pull the Cavs within 105-103 with 10.1 seconds left as coach Vinny Del Negro called for the intentional foul.

Brad Miller, probably the team’s best free throw shooter, then made two for a 107-103 lead with 6.2 seconds left. But the Cavs didn’t quit. Mo Williams knocked in a three, and then Deng was fouled and made one of two for a three-point lead with 3.5 seconds left.

But the Cavs were out of timeouts and Parker had to try a half court heave that grazed the rim to end the game.

“Usually when you bring good energy and a sense of urgency good things happen,” said Del Negro. “We shot it better. But Cleveland is No. 1 seed for a reason. We’re going to have to play our best basketball Sunday to even the series up. We put a little pressure on them.”

Now the Cavs have to respond. We’ll see what they have.

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