Cavs rout Bulls to take 3-1 lead
LeBron James insisted there was nothing unusual about the shot, that he's perfectly comfortable taking it.
Never mind that he unleashed it from nearly halfcourt.
James' jumper - from a spot that requires a heave for many players - was just part of the show on a day when he delivered his fifth career postseason triple-double with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. That led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 121-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday and a 3-1 lead in their first-round series.
"I've done some great things in the past, I'll do some great things in the future," he said. "But we're in the present now, and I'm feeling pretty good."
The Cavaliers led by 10 at halftime after scoring 38 in the second quarter and broke it open with a 37-point third, putting them in position to close it out at home on Tuesday.
James was at it again after scoring 40 and 39 the previous two games, connecting whenever he wanted and from wherever he wanted. He was 6 of 9 on 3-pointers, including a jumper from just inside midcourt at the end of the third that made it 99-76.
"I can comfortably shoot that shot," James said. "It was a regular jump shot for me. Comfortably, I can walk and dribble into a halfcourt 3."
James certainly made it look easy against the Bulls.
"He was extremely active all over the place," coach Mike Brown said. "He really set the tone defensively. He was terrific for us on the weakside. He was great for us on the ball, and he talked defense the whole game."
He had plenty of help from Antawn Jamison, who scored 12 of his 24 in the third quarter, not to mention Mo Williams (19 points).
Chicago got 21 apiece from Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, who also pulled down 20 rebounds, but the Bulls settled for jump shots once they fell behind. Now, they are on the verge of their second straight first-round exit after a thorough beating by the Eastern Conference's top seed.
"I just think we weren't very tough mentally today," Noah said. "We were playing good ball and then just collapsed. We're a young team and have to learn from this."
The Cavaliers were simply locked in after a two-point loss in Game 3. They shot 53 percent and outscored Chicago 40-34 in the paint after being dominated there 94-70 the previous two games.
The Bulls were leading 43-40 after Luol Deng hit a 17-footer with just over five minutes left in the half. Then, Cleveland took over.
"When we had the lead, we should have run some more effective plays, run some pick-and-rolls and attacked the basket," Rose said. "And even if you couldn't make the shot, you could dump it off to a big and maybe they could get to the line."
James scored nine as the Cavaliers ended the half on a 22-9 run, hitting a 3-pointer that put Cleveland ahead 47-45 with 3:36 left, and they continued to build on it.
James nailed a 22-foot fadeaway from up top just before the halftime buzzer, right after a short bank shot by Rose, to make it 62-52. Cleveland quickly put it away after returning from the locker room, scoring the first seven of the third, with James' floater making it 69-52. But it was his shot at the end of the quarter that left everyone else in awe.
"Seeing him do that is always fun to watch," Williams said. "It takes a lot out of a team. We're already up 20 and he's hitting shots like that. You just sit back like an opponent and wonder what can we do."
If the Bulls are demoralized, they weren't about to let on.
"I know that we have to play another game," Rose said. "My confidence level is high and my team will follow me."
NOTES: Shaquille O'Neal had just six points and five fouls in 17 minutes for Cleveland. ... J.J. Hickson played 17 minutes and scored 10 for the Cavaliers. ... Rose said he "tweaked" his ankle in a collision with O'Neal in the third but should be OK for Game 5. ... Noah was the first Bulls player to go for at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a playoff game. ... Deng scored 16 for Chicago. ... The Bulls were 4 of 12 on 3-pointers, while Cleveland hit 12 of 25. ... Chicago shot 37.4 percent overall. ... When Rose scored 31 and Kirk Hinrich 27 in Game 3, it was only the Bulls' third playoff game in which both starting guards scored at least 25. Michael Jordan (36) and Sam Vincent (31) did it against Detroit in 1988, and Jerry Sloan (27) and Norm Van Lier (26) did it against the Lakers in 1973, according to information provided to the team by the Elias Sports Bureau.