Bulls, Cavs travel to Chicago for Game 3
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls head to the Windy City Friday night for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series knotted 1-1.
After the Bulls snuck out Game 1 in Cleveland, the Cavs responded on Wednesday with a 106-91 drubbing in Game 2.
LeBron James was his amazing self Wednesday, scoring 33 points, 14 more than he had in the opener.
After shooting 9-of-22 in Monday's 99-92 loss, James had 22 points in the first half Wednesday, helping the Cavaliers build a big lead on the way to a much-needed win with the series shifting to Chicago for the next two games.
The short-handed Cavs controlled play except for a two-minute span in the third quarter when the Bulls scored 14 straight points.
"We needed it," said James. "Our backs were against the wall. We can't go down 2-0 on our home floor."
James donned his trademark headband for the first time in almost two months and added eight rebounds, five assists and two steals for the No. 2-seeded Cavs.
"It was just in my locker when I showed up today and so I just decided to give it a go," James said. "It was time for it to make a comeback."
He also played a different position than Game 1, shifting to small forward with 6-foot-9 Tristan Thompson inserted into the starting lineup.
"For good parts of the game he played the four as well. He just didn't start there," Cavs coach David Blatt said of James. "I think the important thing was he was very aggressive, in attack mode, engaged, leading the guys by example and vocally."
Kyrie Irving chipped in 21 points in the win and James Jones and Iman Shumpert combined for 32 with nine 3-pointers between them.
The Cavs are without Kevin Love for the series because of a shoulder injury, but they will get J.R. Smith back from suspension for Game 3.
Jimmy Butler, who will receive his Most Improved Player award in a pregame ceremony, scored 18 points to lead the third-seeded Bulls on Wednesday and Derrick Rose had 14 points and 10 assists.
The Cavs had a 25-point lead before the Bulls scored on six straight possessions for their 14-0 run in the third quarter. Rose and Butler hit 3s during the flurry, which trimmed Cleveland's lead to 11 -- the first time the Bulls were that close since midway through the first quarter.
James drove for a layup to end the run and the Cavs built their lead to 16 entering the fourth quarter. He only played five minutes in the fourth and the Bulls were never closer than 12 down the stretch.
James scored 14 points to key a big first quarter for Cleveland, but Shumpert also played a role, hitting a trio of 3s as the Cavs poured it on early. They were 6-of-7 from beyond the arc in the quarter and led by 22 after Jones' 3 in the last minute.
"The story of the game was the first quarter," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "They mismatched us. We knew the aggression would be better, harder, and we didn't respond to it. ... It was too big a cushion for them."
The Bulls have won three of the last four meetings in Chicago, although the Cavs won in overtime at the United Center during the regular season.
Game 4 will be Sunday afternoon in Chicago.