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LeBron James nails a game-winner at the buzzer, ties Cavs-Bulls series at 2-2

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(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.

Rose banks in 3 at buzzer to lift Bulls over Cavaliers 99-96

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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.”

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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.

 

Blackhawks hang on for 4-3 win over Wild to sweep series

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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.