Published May 03, 2016
(SportsNetwork.com) - LeBron James will try to lead his Cleveland Cavaliers to a series lead Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 at Quicken Loans Arena.
James tied this Eastern Conference semifinal matchup at 2-2 on Sunday afternoon with a buzzer-beater after he "scratched" the play head coach David Blatt drew up.
After being whistled for a costly offensive foul on the previous possession, James caught an inbounds pass with 1.5 seconds remaining and hit a tough fadeaway from the left corner with Jimmy Butler in his face.
"To be honest, the play that was drawn up, I scratched it," James said. "I told coach, 'Just get me the ball. We're either going to go into overtime, or I'm going to win it for us.' It was that simple."
The clutch shot gave the Cavaliers a thrilling 86-84 win.
The whirlwind finish mirrored the roller-coaster swings throughout the pivotal showdown, with Cleveland falling behind by as many as 11 after missing 13 straight shots at one point in the third quarter.
J.R. Smith sparked the turnaround, scoring 11 of his 13 points during a 23-5 stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters. Timofey Mozgov also came up with several big buckets and finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.
James took on an even bigger role with Kyrie Irving clearly limited with a foot injury. The former MVP played 43 minutes and totaled 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists while committing a game-high eight turnovers.
James' game-winner came two nights after Chicago's Derrick Rose banked home a deep 3-pointer to win Game 3.
"The last two games could have gone either way," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Derrick made a great play (in Game 3) and LeBron made a great play tonight."
Rose poured in 31 points for the Bulls on Sunday and pulled them even with a scintillating drive to the basket with 9.1 seconds remaining.
James, whose elbow out of a double-team drew a whistle leading to Rose's tying basket, drove baseline and was greeted under the basket by Joakim Noah. There was some contact but no call, and the ball was knocked out of bounds by the Bulls.
Cleveland had no timeouts remaining, although that didn't stop Blatt from trying to call one earlier. The team managed to draw up James' winner as the officials gathered for a lengthy review of the game clock.
Irving finished with 12 points, but has been diagnosed with a right foot strain and tendinitis in his left knee. He will plug along as there has been no consideration of him sitting with his injuries.
"It's about finding ways I can be effective," Irving said after practice Monday. "I still can shoot. They still have to respect me out there. I'm going to continue to will myself through these playoff games as best I can."
The Bulls are also facing injury problems. Starting forward Pau Gasol missed Game 4 with a hamstring ailment and didn't practice on Monday. He got treatment on the injured leg and will be a game-time decision.
Game 6 will be Thursday night in Chicago.