Cavs/Bulls Game 1 Recap
For the Bulls, it’s only Game 1. For the Cavs it’s 1 down, 15 to go.
by Bryan Crawford / @ from_the_chi
“They asked for us. Now they got us.”
Those were LeBron James’ words in response to the impending matchup between his Cavalier squad and the Chicago Bulls. James said the team was “a different monster” that the Bulls would face on Saturday and for a while, those words rang true. The final score was 96-83 in favor of the Cavaliers and even though Chicago lost Game 1, going down by 13 points should at least give them hope that they can compete with Cleveland. Especially after being down by 22 points at one point in the game.
“The Q” was rocking yesterday as the Cavs began their mission to win the franchise’s first ever NBA Championship. The fans were excited, Shaquille O’Neal was back in the starting lineup and playing in his first game in what seemed like forever (23 games actually) after nursing an injured thumb, and the Bulls seemed like a speed bump on the road to what many people feel is destiny for LeBron James and Cleveland this year.
Chicago came out very flat to open the game and you could tell that the sense of urgency just wasn’t there. Playing in a raucous arena, on the road, and in the opening game of a playoff series no less, not being fired up and ready to go usually spells disaster. For the first 24 minutes of regulation for the Bulls, it did. After being tied 8-8 early, before you knew it Cleveland jumped out to a 28-14 lead and the Bulls found themselves playing from behind the rest of the night.
Chicago couldn’t get any shots to fall and couldn’t get any rebounds either. The Cavaliers were more aggressive on the glass (they out-rebounded Chicago 50-38) and with Shaq back roaming the middle, Cleveland dominated the points in the paint to the tune of 42-26. Defensively, it was one of the best games the Cavaliers have played all year. Every shot by the Bulls was contested, and the Cavs pretty much shut the lane down forcing Chicago into taking a lot of outside shots for a team that really doesn’t have any consistent outside shooting.
The game was also a physical one as LeBron James and Brad Miller got called for off-setting technicals on a James drive to the basket where a shove happened, an elbow was thrown, and words were exchanged. But it seemed that was exactly the kind of motivation the Bulls needed to get themselves fired up.
In the second half, Chicago looked like a much different team and for whatever reason the Cavaliers went completely cold. Actually, the Cavs got comfortable with their lead and started hoisting jumpers allowing the Bulls to get themselves back into the game. At one point, Chicago had cut Cleveland’s lead down to seven points in the fourth quarter, but it was as close as they would get as LeBron James and company closed them out to take Game 1.
Derrick Rose, although flirting with a triple-double in the game (28 points, 10assists, 7 rebounds) really struggled most of the night. He looked good in the second half and it almost made you forget that even though he finished with 28 points, it took him 28 shots to do it. It was a very Monta Ellis like performance. He also didn’t get any help from his supporting cast as everyone for the Bulls struggled on offense. Luol Deng was the only other double digit scorer and finished with 12 points, but he shot just 5-15, and Kirk Hinirch, my “X-factor” for the Bulls in the series was a no-show, finishing with just 8 points on 4-10 shooting from the field.
For the Cavs, they were led by James who had a very “quiet” 24 points as he just seemed to have it on cruise control all night. His scoring seemed effortless, and his defensive intensity was there as well as his patented “chase down” blocks were on display for all the world to see as he spectacularly swatted shot attempts by both Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose that really got the crowd excited. He would also finish the game with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks.
An extended lay-off by Shaquille O’Neal showed no ill-effects of rust on his game. His performance was far from dominant (12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks) but he proved absolutely impossible for the Bulls to stop down low and even looked a bit spry. He will be a major problem for Chicago as this series goes on. Antawn Jamison (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Mo Williams (19 points, 10 assists) also proved problematic for the Bulls.
If there is a bright side to what happened on Sunday for Bulls fans, it was only Game 1. The beauty of the playoffs is adjustments and Chicago has a lot of those to make if they’re going to try and compete and not get swept in this series. Game 2 will be Monday in Cleveland.