The Cleveland Cavaliers tie the conference semifinals against the Chicago Bulls at 2-2, as LeBron James hits a buzzer beating jumper to win it 86-84, despite his rivals looking like the better team in the most fun-to-watch series in the playoffs so far.
LeBron James Sucks but Still Gets the Last Laugh
Be a winner, and everything is forgiven. LeBron James shot just 10-of-30 from the field in game 4. He was only 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. He turned the ball over 8 times. He made mistake after mistake in his decision making during the final few minutes, trying to do everything on his own, which is obviously getting more and more difficult for him. But when the moment came to take the final shot, he was there.
David Blatt wanted him to inbound the ball, but James said he wants to take the shot. So he caught the pass after a nice juke on Jimmy Butler, freed himself up for a corner jumper and nailed it. All the talk about not being clutch or fearing taking that final shot can die down for a while. James has a long list of buzzer beaters in the playoffs over his career. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone.
James isn’t having a good series in terms of efficiency. He’s shooting only 37.7% from the field, 10.5% from beyond the arc (taking 4.8 shots per game) and turning the ball over 5.8 times a night. But the Cavaliers are playing without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving at about 50%. James doesn’t need to take 30 shots a game (attempting 26.5 on average), but he’s the only one stepping up and trying to win it. This team, despite all the talent around him, lives and dies on his word, and his ability to finish a game.
The Chicago Bulls Don’t Really Know How They Lost
The Bulls probably have the best backcourt in the NBA (although I’m probably in a minority opinion). They have great interior defense, good shooters and a solid bench. Yet something isn’t clicking. Maybe it’s Tim Thibodeau and his lack of creativity in offensive coaching. Maybe it’s just subpar play by too many players, or Pau Gasol not playing. But the Bulls are being dragged down instead of blowing the Cavaliers out of the water.
They’re playing better yet they fail at breaking away. They shot just 36% from the field, and although they were impressive from beyond the arc (42.9% from three), they couldn’t finish inside the paint. Points in the paint shouldn’t matter that much; long range shooting makes more of a difference, but the Bulls get no respect from the officials (only 12 free throws) and don’t make the most of second chances, dominating the offensive glass with 11 boards compared to the Cavaliers 6.
The Real Final
Whatever the conference finals in the East will be, there will be some sort of anticlimactic feeling to it. The Bulls and the Cavaliers are bringing the whole package which works so well in the playoffs. Superstars, a real rivalry, even if it’s more about a player vs a team than two clubs going at it, and a nice combination of dramatic moments with bad basketball and intensity. Vs the Hawks or Wizards it won’t feel the same, despite the bigger stakes.