CHICAGO (AP) — LeBron James struggled to score 15 points, Kyrie Irving limped off the court and the Cleveland Cavaliers still beat the Chicago Bulls 94-73 on Thursday night to clinch their Eastern Conference semifinal series in six games.
Matthew Dellavedova scored 19 points and Tristan Thompson added 13 points and 17 rebounds to help the Cavaliers advance to the conference final for the first time since 2009 even though their superstar played like a mere mortal and their All-Star point guard hobbled to the locker room in the first half.
Despite all that, Cleveland is right where it expected to be after James decided to come home from Miami and return to his first team. The Cavaliers didn’t expect to get there like this, though — with Kevin Love suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the opening round and Irving trying to gut through problems with both legs.
CLEVELAND (AP) — With the “Big 3” reduced to the “Banged-Up 2,” LeBron James again showed why he’s Cleveland’s one and only.
James scored 38 points, Kyrie Irving added 25 and the Cavaliers held off Chicago’s charge in the fourth quarter for a 106-101 victory over the Bulls on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in their testy Eastern Conference semifinal.
Showing no ill effects from a sprained left ankle, James added 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals, three blocks and didn’t have a turnover in 41 minutes to ensure the Cavs will again play at home this season. The four-time league MVP was locked in from the start, imposing his will on a game the Cavaliers had to have.
“I commend him for putting us on his back,” Irving said.
Cleveland can wrap up the best-of-seven series and advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 with a win in Game 6 on Thursday night back at United Center in Chicago, where the teams exchanged buzzer-beating victories last weekend.
The drama wasn’t quite as high in Game 5, but it was close and it was intense.
Jimmy Butler scored 29 and Mike Dunleavy 19 for Chicago. Derrick Rose scored 16, 12 in the first quarter, but the star guard shot just 2 of 15 in the final three quarters and aggravated a shoulder “stinger” he sustained in Game 1.
Fueled by an altercation that led to the ejection of Chicago’s Taj Gibson, the Cavs led 90-73 with 6:09 left and then had to hold off a furious comeback by the Bulls, who got within 101-99 on Butler’s 3-pointer with 1:18 left.
Cleveland, though, got a huge offensive rebound by Iman Shumpert before Irving, playing with surprising speed and agility on a sprained right foot and sore left knee, made four free throws in the final 17 seconds.
James, though, was the difference — as usual. After a few un-LeBron-like performances in which he was sloppy with the ball, James had his first error-free game this season.
“Yay!” he joked, feigning surprise. “No turnovers! That was the first stat I was looking at after the game. I was trying to be efficient for my teammates and I was very efficient.”
The Bulls were missing big man Pau Gasol, who sat out his second straight game with a strained left hamstring and didn’t sound confident before Game 5 that he’d be ready by Thursday.
They also played the final 10:25 without Gibson, ejected for kicking Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova. Gibson shoved Dellavedova to the floor and then kicked the scrappy backup, who angered the Bulls forward by clamping his legs around Gibson’s. Players on both teams exchanged shoves and pushes before the officials got things under control.
Gibson could be facing further discipline from the league, and Dellavedova, too, might get slapped for his role.
“I was surprised (to be ejected),” Gibson said. “I really just tried to release my foot because as soon as I got up off the ground, I just felt somebody tugging on my leg.”
James was on the bench for the fracas and made sure none of his teammates went on the floor. James called Dellavedova “the toughest guy on our team” and promised the Cavs won’t tolerate any rough stuff.
“We just want to play ball,” he said. “But we’ll protect our brothers.”
The Cavs were sparked by the incident and opened a 90-73 lead before the Bulls came charging back. Dunleavy scored six points in an 11-0 run that got Chicago back in it before the Cavs gained their composure and closed it out.
“I love the way that we fought back,” Rose said. “I thought we had a crack at it, we just didn’t execute right.”
James, who came in shooting just 38 percent in the series, didn’t show the slightest signs of being slowed by the sprain he sustained late in Game 4. He ran the floor with abandon, posted up whenever possible and seemed intent on taking care of the Bulls by himself.
(AP) Cleveland – Among the multitude of highlights in the long-running clash between LeBron James and the Chicago Bulls, the big moments in this playoff series may stand alone.
Two former MVPs, two buzzer-beaters, two wins apiece.
With this Eastern Conference semifinal now a best-of-three, those dramatics only figure to increase Tuesday night when the series shifts back to Cleveland for a critical Game 5 after James gave the Cavaliers a thrilling win in Chicago.
Derrick Rose handed the Bulls a 2-1 advantage with a last-second 3-pointer in a 99-96 win in Game 3 before James answered Sunday by knocking down a long jumper from the corner to lift Cleveland to an 86-84 victory.
That final play was initially designed with James throwing the inbound pass from beneath Cleveland’s basket – a plan the four-time MVP instantly rejected.
“I told Coach (David Blatt) there was no way I’m taking the ball out unless I could shoot it over the backboard and go in,” James said. “So I told him, ‘Have somebody else take the ball out.’ The play that was drawn up, I scratched it. I just told Coach, ‘Just give me the ball. We’re either going to go into overtime or I’m going to win it for us.'”
James also carried Cleveland to victory in Game 2, scoring 22 first-half points en route to a 19-point halftime lead and eventual 106-91 victory.
Rose and Jimmy Butler claimed that leading role from James in Chicago’s two victories. They combined to score 45 in Game 1 and 50 points – 23 in the fourth quarter – in Game 3.
Rose has particularly impressed with an average of 30.5 points over the last two games, but with Pau Gasol sidelined by a strained hamstring, the 84 points Sunday matched the Bulls’ third-lowest total this season.
“Pau, the way that he scores, just his presence on the floor, the way that he shoots the ball, rebounds the ball, is huge,” Rose told the team’s official website. “But I think the guys who stepped in did their jobs and they played well. We lost the game, for sure, but I love our mentality.”
Gasol is a game-time decision, and the Bulls will again look to Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson should the All-Star forward be unable to play. They combined for 21 points and 17 rebounds in Game 3, but stumbled to only nine points and 11 boards Sunday.
Outside of Rose and Butler, no Bulls player scored in double figures in Game 4.
Kyrie Irving is also dealing with injuries that have limited him to 11.5 points per game over the last two. Unlike Chicago, however, the Cavaliers got support from their reserves Sunday, namely J.R. Smith, who hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 in the fourth.
A similar performance may again be necessary moving forward given Irving’s status. An MRI taken Monday revealed that in addition to a sprained right foot suffered during Cleveland’s first round series with Boston, Irving also has tendinitis in his left knee.
“It’s just about finding ways to be more effective, especially being out there,” Irving said. “I still can shoot. You still have to respect me out there. It’s not like they can just leave me or anything like that. But I just try to use myself as a decoy and make plays as best I can.”
James skipped Tuesday’s morning shootaround after hurting his ankle when he stepped on one of Rose’s feet on a drive to the basket Sunday. He says he’s getting treatment for the injury but will play.
Joakim Noah, whose trash talk in Game 3 was deemed “disrespectful” by James, grabbed 15 rebounds Sunday and will try to help the Bulls snap a losing postseason trend in Cleveland, where they’ve dropped four of five playoff games.
“We’re right where we want to be,” Noah said. “We’re really excited for Game 5.”
(AP) CHICAGO — LeBron James watched his coach draw up the final play — and then drew one up of his own.
“Give me the ball and get out of the way,” he said.
James overruled Cleveland coach David Blatt’s idea for a last-second inbounds play and drained a jumper from the corner at the buzzer to give the Cavaliers an 86-84 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, evening the Eastern Conference semifinal series at 2-2.
During a stoppage the Cavs only got because the officials were reviewing a play, Blatt designed a play that had James taking the ball out. The four-time NBA MVP has been in enough pressure situations that he vetoed his coach.
“I was supposed to take the ball out,” James said. “I told Coach there was no way I’m taking the ball out unless I could shoot it over the backboard and go in. So I told him, ‘Have somebody else take the ball out.’ The play that was drawn up, I scratched it. I just told Coach, ‘Just give me the ball. We’re either going to go into overtime or I’m going to win it for us.’”
James, playing the final quarter on a sprained left ankle, finished with 25 points to help the Cavaliers win in another wild finish, returning the favor after Chicago took Game 3 on Derrick Rose’s banked 3-pointer at the horn.
This time, James got whistled for an offensive foul when he elbowed Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Rose scored on a driving layup with 9.4 seconds left. Blatt tried to call a timeout but didn’t have one and assistant Tyronn Lue alertly pulled him off the court.
Also on Sunday:
Clippers 128, Rockets 95: LOS ANGELES — DeAndre Jordan scored 26 points, surviving Houston’s intentional-foul fest in the first half, and the Los Angeles Clippers won to take a 3-1 lead and put the Rockets on the brink of elimination in the Western Conference semifinals. Jordan made 14 of 34 free throws, attempting an NBA playoff-record 28 in the first half, and had 17 rebounds. Blake Griffin added 21 points, J.J. Redick had 18 points and Chris Paul finished with 15 points and 12 assists in the Clippers’ second straight blowout win in the best-of-7 series.
The ROWVA Tigers Boys Track Team ran home with the Lincoln trail Conference title for the first time since 1998. The Tigers bested the host Mercer County Golden Eagles by 19.5 points on a gloomy and wet Friday Afternoon. The Tigers won both the 4×800 meter relay and the 4×400 meter relay, and also finished with 25 top-five finishes in other events.
On the girls side of the meet; hosts Mercer County took the title followed by Annawan\Wethersfield, Stark County and Ridgewood.
CHICAGO (AP) — Derrick Rose wanted to make one thing clear about his winning 3-pointer. He did not call glass.
Rose banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer and scored 30 points Friday night to give the Chicago Bulls a 99-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers and a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
”I’m just thankful and grateful that my teammates gave me the ball,” he said. ”They believed in me down the stretch. They kept getting me the ball, kept encouraging me to play the way that I usually play. And no, I did not call glass.”
Cleveland had just tied it on a 3-pointer by J.R. Smith with 10.8 seconds left when Rose came through with the winner off a sideline inbounds play.
The play called for him to get the ball in the corner, but he could not find an opening there. Instead, he took the inbounds from Mike Dunleavy Jr. on the wing and dribbled to his right, past the top of the key. Then, as time expired, he banked in a 26-footer over Tristan Thompson.
That drew a mob from his teammates and a deafening roar from the crowd for a hometown star limited in recent years by injuries to both knees. Rose has played well at times in these playoffs – the first for him since 2012. But he also committed a late turnover and got beaten on a last-second layup in a loss to Milwaukee in Game 4 of the first round.
This, by far, was his biggest shot of the postseason.
”It was huge,” said Jimmy Butler, who scored 20 for Chicago. ”We needed that. That’s what he does.”
Rose buzzer-beater lifts Bulls over Cavs Reuters
Cavaliers vs. Bulls 2015 results: 3 things we learned from Derrick Rose’s buzzer-beater win SB Nation
Rose, Gasol pace Bulls to 99-92 win over Cavs in Game 1 The Associated Press
Bulls-Cavaliers Preview Capsule The Associated Press
NBA playoff results: Cavaliers dominate Game 2, Rockets try to avoid 0-2 hole SB Nation
LeBron James, who scored 27 for Cleveland despite shooting 8 of 25, said there was nothing Thompson could do about that shot.
”You follow the game plan, they make a shot – you live with it,” he said. ”It’s when you make mistakes during the game plan, those would be the ones that are hard to live with. I know it’s easy for me to say that. The shot was not made on me. The guy took a tough shot. Tip your hat to him.”
James passed Tony Parker, Steve Nash and Larry Bird for fourth on the career playoff assists list. He had 14 in the game, giving him 1,073.
Chicago never won more than one game in three previous playoff series against teams led by James. But the Bulls have a chance to take a commanding lead with Game 4 at home on Sunday.
Smith, back from a two-game suspension, scored 14 points. Kyrie Irving, playing with a sore foot that started bothering him in the first round against Boston, had just 11 points and no assists. He shot 3 of 13 and the only baskets he made were on 3-pointers.
Rose and Butler combined to score 23 of Chicago’s 25 points in the fourth quarter.
Dunleavy finished the game with 16 points, and Nikola Mirotic scored 12 after playing sparingly the first two games. The Bulls also outrebounded Cleveland 54-39, outscored them 44-28 in the paint and had 18 second-chance points compared to seven for the Cavaliers.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Corey Crawford and the Chicago Blackhawks controlled this second-round series from start to finish, except for a frenzied attempt by the Minnesota Wild to send Game 4 into overtime.
Crawford made 34 saves, Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, and the Blackhawks advanced to the Western Conference finals for the fifth time in seven years with a 4-3 victory over the Wild on Thursday night.
“It may have looked a little hectic, but I think our team remained calm,” left wing Patrick Sharp said, “and we did what we had to do.”
The Wild never led in the series, but they had a big rally after falling behind 4-1 on Marian Hossa’s short-handed, empty-net goal with 3:07 left. Devan Dubnyk, who made 21 saves to cap a remarkable run for the Wild since arriving in a season-saving mid-January trade, was pulled for most of the last four minutes.
View galleryChicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell, top right, …
Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell, top right, and Blackhawks center Brad Richards, bottom r …
Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter scored with 2:18 and 1:27 remaining to give the Wild one last chance, but the final few whacks were either wide or turned aside by Crawford, who stopped 124 of 131 shots in the four games for a robust .947 save percentage. The Blackhawks improved to 30-0, including 5-0 in this postseason, when leading after two periods.
“They want to be successful. They want to find ways to win, and in the end they want to be champions,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said, praising the resolve of his players over that final frantic sequence.
Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw also scored for the Blackhawks, who were down to five defensemen after a serious injury to veteran Michal Roszival. Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell had two assists apiece, and Chicago eliminated Minnesota from the playoffs for the third straight year, winning 12 of the 15 games.
Dubnyk said he felt “sick” about it.
“To be with the group that we have, to finish it that way, it just doesn’t feel right,” he said.
View galleryChicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4), …
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4), of Sweden, slams Minnesota Wild left wing Zach …
The Blackhawks have scored 12 times in the first period in 10 games this postseason. They’re 5-1 when scoring first.
“We don’t think about being special,” Kane said. “If we have a good game the game before, we want to be even better. If we have a bad game, we want to wipe the slate clean and not feel sorry for ourselves, come back, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Blackhawks showed their deft finishing touch throughout the series, making so many of their prime opportunities count. The Wild simply didn’t, though they couldn’t help but shake their heads about some of the bad bounces against them.
Seabrook gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead with his shot off Wild defenseman Marco Scandella’s shin and into the upper corner of the net.
Toews took the game’s first penalty, hooking early in the second period, and the Wild just missed several chances to score on the power play. Defenseman Matt Dumba and center Mikael Granlund took the place of the struggling Pominville and Thomas Vanek on the first unit.
View galleryChicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, right, deflects …
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, right, deflects a shot by Minnesota Wild center Jordan Sch …
Soon after Toews left the box, he picked up the puck and threaded a perfect pass to a streaking Marcus Kruger, who drew a hooking call on Nino Niederreiter. The Blackhawks scored on their power play when Shaw knocked a loose puck between Dubnyk’s pads.
“We had a great run, and obviously that’s not the way we wanted it to end,” said Vanek, who was dropped down to the third line. “They were tight games, and their scorers scored when they needed to, timely goals. I didn’t.”
Vanek had a breakaway when Rozsival lost his balance and fell backward while badly injuring his left leg, but Crawford brushed Vanek’s shot aside with his blocker. Rozsival was helped off the ice, his left leg hanging limp without any weight on it.
Erik Haula scored in the second period to pull the Wild within 2-1, his speed and energy on the fourth line providing a bright spot for the Wild. That was the first goal by a Wild forward in a stretch of 177 minutes and 11 seconds since the middle of the second period of Game 1. Dumba scored in Game 2, the only other goal during that stretch as Crawford gained more and more confidence by the shot.
“You feel it’s a waste of a year, because we had a chance and we were playing some good hockey coming into the postseason and we proved it in the first round,” Pominville said, reflecting on the six-game victory over Central Division champion St. Louis. “But it wasn’t good enough in the second.”
NOTES: This was the first sweep by the Blackhawks since the Western Conference finals in 2010 against San Jose. … Haula had four goals and three assists for the Wild in 13 playoff games last year. This was his first score since Feb. 28.
CHICAGO (AP) — There was a time when Jimmy Butler was kicked out of his home as a teenager with no place to go. He has come a long way since then.
The Chicago Bulls guard was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player on Thursday after making his first All-Star team and averaging a career high in scoring.
“I felt like at any level I was at, whether it be junior college or Marquette, I don’t think I was supposed to be there,” Butler said. “Somehow, some way, with the people that were in my corner, I found a way to get there.”
The 25-year-old Butler received 92 of 129 first-place votes and 535 total points from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors was second (11 first-place votes, 200 points) and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz finished third (12, 189).
“It’s a testament to his work ethic and what he’s done,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Each year, he’s gotten a lot better. I think it’s being recognized by a lot of people now. Where he is today, in comparing that to where he was four years ago, he’s made a gigantic jump.”
That the award went to Butler is hardly a surprise given the improvement he showed while helping the Bulls fight through injuries to win 50 games.
View galleryCleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives …
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives against Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) d …
“I’m very happy for him,” the Bulls’ Joakim Noah said. “Very well deserved. Somebody that’s worked extremely hard. I’m happy for Jimmy.”
In his fourth season, the 6-7 guard went from averaging 13.1 to 20 points. His shooting improved from 39.7 to 46.2 percent, his rebounding jumped from 4.9 to 5.8 and his assists increased from 2.6 to 3.3 per game.
Butler is also in line for a huge payday as a restricted free agent after he and the Bulls were unable to agree to a contract extension before the season. He said at the time he was betting on himself, and it sure looks like he hit the jackpot.
Butler, however, called it “a tie” Thursday and insisted, “We both won.” He also said he has no plans to leave Chicago, where the Bulls are tied 1-1 with Cleveland in their second-round playoff series. Game 3 is Friday night.
“I think this is a place for me,” Butler said. “I love playing with the guys we have. They continue to bring in great, high-character guys that fit the team role. I love it here.”
View galleryChicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler, bottom, scores in …
Chicago Bulls’ Jimmy Butler, bottom, scores in front of Cleveland Cavaliers’ James Jones dur …
Butler thanked his family, his brothers, his teammates, current and former coaches and team management. He mentioned how former teammate Luol Deng helped him adjust to the NBA, as well as Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin.
The award is the next step in a remarkable climb from homelessness as a teen to stardom in the NBA.
Butler got kicked out of his house by his mother when he was 13, in Tomball, Texas, and his father had been out of his life since he was a baby. At the time, Butler had no money and nowhere to go.
He would stay with friends for a few weeks and then move on to another one looking for a place to stay. He eventually settled in with the Lambert family and became a star at Tomball High. He was barely recruited, but Tyler Junior College coach Mike Marquis gave him an opportunity.
“Coach Mike Marquis was seeing something in myself that I didn’t see at that age,” Butler said.
He also mentioned the work ethic then-coach Buzz Williams instilled in him at Marquette. Butler spent three years there before getting drafted with the 30th pick by the Bulls in 2011.
“Without Buzz constantly challenging me and pushing me to be great, I don’t think I’d be standing here,” he said.
He played little as a rookie but started to show some promise in his second year. The past two seasons, he has averaged 38.7 minutes. And the big jump this year comes after a grueling offseason.
Butler worked out three times a day in Houston, from morning to night with breaks for meals and a nap. He and some friends also rented a house with no cable or Internet service, choosing to focus on basketball.
“What we see is a great will and determination that Jimmy has, an outstanding work ethic and an inner drive to succeed that he comes with each and every day,” general manager Gar Forman said. “You look back at Jimmy’s story and it really is amazing that we’re here today.”