Monday, April 26

Back in the driver's seat


I don't know what else to say about that stunning quarter-and-a-half of basketball that the Cavs played midgame on Sunday en route to a 121-98 thrashing of the Bulls, a win that gives Cleveland a commanding 3-1 lead in their first-round series against Chicago. As the scene shifts back to C-town for Game 5, it looks like the Bulls' season very likely will consist of just one more game.

Consider what the Cavs did: the Bulls were leading them 45-44 with 3:50 left in the 2nd quarter. With 6:19 remaining in the 3rd, the Cavs taken an 83-60 lead, piling up a 23-point advantage that they would maintain until the final buzzer. For those of you scoring at home, that's a 39-15 run, highlighted by textbook team defense, excellent ball movement on offense, and the singular talents of one LeBron James. In short, it was a startling display of team basketball ability that makes one remember why we all feel that this Cavalier team really can win the NBA championship.

As is typically the case for pro basketball, the Cavs' domination is reflected well in the box score. They shot extremely well, netting 53.2% of their shots, including 12-25 (48%) on three-balls and knocking down 20 of their final 21 foul shots. Chicago, on the other hand, was an icy 37.4%, just 4-12 from downtown. The Cavaliers were outrebounded by Chicago, 49-41 - the only really troubling statistic from the game was Chicago's unacceptable tally of 17 offensive boards. That's absurd, no matter how many bricks they were laying (a lot). Cleveland notched 21 assists versus just 14 for the Bulls, and the turnovers were roughly equal. The Cavs collected 7 blocks and 6 steals against just 2 and 1 for the Bulls; the game really just came down to far superior offensive efficiency and defensive tenacity from Cleveland.

LeBron was ridiculous in this game, slapping up a 37/12/11 line for his 5th career triple-double, requiring just 17 shots and posting an impressive +29 rating. A commanding performance. The King was deadly from deep, hitting on 6/9, including a halfcourt shot at the end of the 3rd right in Derrick Rose's face.

Other Cleveland stars included Antawn Jamison (a typically effective 24/7 and a game-high +33) and Mo Williams, who netted 19 points on just 10 shots. Anthony Parker chipped in 12 and some very nice defense, while JJ Hickson collected an efficient 10 points and some very weak defense. Delonte West also deserves credit for keeping the Cavs close with the Bulls before their explosive run put the game away.

On the Bulls' side, it was basically Joakim Noah (21 points and 20 boards) and Derrick Rose (21 points, 5 assists) - without the accuracy from Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich (combined 10-30) they enjoyed in Game 3, the Bulls simply didn't have a chance. Interestingly, Rose finished with a game-low -27, more a reflection of the Cavs' offensive prowess and the fact that he played more minutes than any other Bull than any deficiencies in his game, though the Cav guards did exploit his defense more than a few times.

Game 5 is Tuesday; time to move on.

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