After Bulls Point Guard Derrick Rose won Game Three with a miraculous buzzer-beater off the glass, the Cavs went back to the hotel with broken hearts, aching muscles and a game down in the series. Recovery was the top priority. After a yoga session and media scrutiny, the Cavs walked back into the United Center determined to not let another close game slip through the cracks. Turns out, it was another game of cracks, and Cleveland nearly let Game Four slip through them.
Up 84-79 with just seconds remaining, the Cavs weren’t able to drain any time with sloppy possessions. After giving up a three-pointer to Jimmy Butler and a layup to Derrick Rose, the Bulls leveled the score in seconds, leaving Cleveland with one final eight-second possession. After a questionable missed call on Bulls’ Center Joakim Noah, the Cavs were left less than two seconds to amend their mistakes down the stretch and save the series. Another fairytale ending for the Bulls on the horizon as a rambunctious home crowd stacked all odds against the Cavs. Then this happened:
LeBron James made his third career buzzer-beater in the playoffs with this tremendous fadeaway basket – no backboard needed. Aside from a 16-0 run in the second quarter, the Cavs played horrendously for a majority of the game. LeBron James shot 10-30 from the field, mustering a rather inefficient 25 points. Kyrie Irving continued to struggle with his foot injury, not contributing much more than free throws. After being outscored by 11 points in the third quarter, the Cavs had to dig deep in the fourth; but Mr. Fourth Quarter wasn’t the King or his assassin tonight. The Cavs last 12-minute surge came from their mid-season pickups, with a couple clutch three-pointers from J.R. Smith (13 points) and a dominating effort in the paint by Timofey Mozgov (15 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks). Tristan Thompson had another solid start, contributing 12 points, 7 rebounds along with his usual hustle in the paint. Unlike Cleveland, the Bulls had their stars aligned for a majority of the game, with Derrick Rose scoring 31 points and Jimmy Butler adding 19 points along with frustrating defense on James. A key takeaway from the game was a defensive adjustment made by Coach Blatt in the fourth quarter, where he sent in Iman Shumpert in place of a limping Kyrie Irving to contain Derrick Rose. This solution reduced his dribble penetration, as Rose only made one basket in the paint the entire fourth quarter.
Despite numerous questionable calls by the referees and their shooting struggles, the Cavs reclaimed home-court advantage by reclaiming their game plan: fight for everything. It’s not easy to match Chicago’s physicality, but Cleveland fought for every possible advantage, posting just a couple more rebounds and a slightly higher shooting percentage. When the Cavs struggled to retain possession (15 turnovers) and shoot the three-ball (20.0% Three-Point%), they fought back for more assists and twice as many free throws. It didn’t matter if the ball went into the basket; it just mattered if they were fighting, leaving it all on the court and dunking on Joakim Noah:
Now with the series tied at two games a piece, the Cavs have ensured a Game Six; but it’s more than the record. Now with two of the last three games to be played in Cleveland, the Cavs carry their momentum into much higher odds, and even Kanye West realizes it:
The series continues on Tuesday with Game Five at the Q.