It certainly wasn’t the kind of game you would draw up when you tried to envision a winning playoff game, but the Cavaliers overcame some lackluster hustle and some quality play from Chicago to escape with a 112-102 victory. What follows is my analysis in Numbers and Words.
- This is a strange game to break down. If you’re the Bulls, are you encouraged with the way you played in front of a hostile crowd against the #1 seed and almost stole a win, or are you feeling down because you played a pretty solid game and still lost? That’s a question only the Bulls can answer, and we’ll probably find out in Game 3.
- The first number that stands out in this one is the Bulls’ Assist to Turnover Ratio. The Cavaliers were an average (for them) 24/12, but the Bulls were an astounding 25/4. I think it’s safe to say that’s about as good of a performance as you can get if you’re Vinny Del Negro. The Bulls also manufactured 16 points off the Cavaliers’ 12 turnovers while the only giving up 5 points on their own 4 turnovers.
- On the season the Cavaliers were 8th in the NBA in points in the paint while Chicago was 20th. Conversely, Cleveland was 2nd in points against in the paint and the Bulls were 9th. So it’s tough to explain the difference in this one. The Cavaliers had just 38 points in the paint while the Bulls had 56. All game long the Cavaliers were letting the Bulls go right at them inside, and it was more than a little confusing to see.
- Rebounding was also a major issue for the Cavaliers in this one. The Bulls outrebounded the Cavs 37-36 overall, but the big key was the 13-5 edge the Bulls carried in offensive rebounds. The Bulls had 21 second chance points compared to just 7 for the Cavs. Cleveland’s offensive rebound rate in this game was 0.172, which if they did for the whole season would have put them dead last by a mile. ORB Rate wasn’t a strength for the Cavs this year (they finished 22nd with a rate of 0.251, but still, this performance on the glass in this game was unacceptable.
- The Bulls even beat the Cavaliers in fastbreak points 18-15. They went 16-17 from the FT line. They were right at their season averages in FG% and 3P%. They had 3 players score over 20 points and 5 were in double digits overall (in case you’re wondering, the Cavs had only one player with more than 14 points total and only 4 in double digits). If you showed me these numbers but didn’t tell me the score, I would probably assume the Bulls won fairly easily. This is why it has to be mildly frustrating for the Bulls. Where do they improve from here? They’re not going to rebound much better, they’re not going to turnover the ball less, their season averages say they’re not going to shoot much better. I don’t think the Cavs should feel great about themselves after this game, but if there’s one thing for them to hang their hat on, it’s that they took the Bulls best shot and still won the game.
- You have to give a lot of credit to Joakim Noah for backing up his mouth with his play in this game. He set a career playoff high in points with 25 and added 13 rebounds to go with it. He was outhustling every single player on the court, and he was willing his team to stay in this game. You hear parallels drawn between Noah and Andy, and for tonight anyway, Joakim out Varejao’d Varejao.
- The Bulls also got 23 points from Derrick Rose and 20 from Luol Deng. In the 2nd quarter, it was Flip Murray who was just destroying the Cavs by attacking the rim. It didn’t seem to matter who Chicago was running their offense through, they were still able to score at will.
- So how did the Cavaliers win this game? By making a lot of jump shots. They were 23-48 on jump shots (48%) and 10-20 from three. Had they not been on with their shot, they almost certainly would have lost. Overall they were 56% from the field, 50% from three and 91.7% from the FT line. All 3 of those numbers are well above season averages. If the Bulls are looking for a way to win a game like this, they can hope that in Chicago these shots won’t be falling.
- The Cavaliers were especially on fire in the 4th quarter. They were 12-18 from the field (66.7%), 4-4 from three (with 3 of them coming from unlikely hero Jamario Moon), and 7-7 from the FT line. When you put up numbers like that in the 4th quarter at home in the playoffs, you’re going to be tough to beat.
- In the 2nd half overall the Cavaliers only turned the ball over 4 times, a major improvement from the 8 they had in the first half. I only bring this up because I didn’t notice a lot of adjustments coming out of halftime, and that’s about the only area they noticeably improved on in the 2nd half.
- I nominate JJ Hickson for box score line of the night: 10 seconds played, 0’s across the board. So is that a 10 Tril Night or what?
- Finally, how can I not mention the night LeBron James had? Once again, he gave us some of that special postseason magic, lighting up the scoreboard for 40 points (16-23 shooting), 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. What more can be said but that this is why the NBA is so great. In no other sport can one superstar carry their teammates like this.
What The Internet Is Saying
The 09-10 Cavaliers flummox me for a number of reasons. Chief among them is that they seem to be two completely different teams. When they execute offensively and make their shots, they get lax with their defense and rebounding. When they get stagnant on offense and miss open shots, they start locking teams down and beating them to every loose ball.
The 08-09 Cavs would dominate on both ends against teams they could handle, but struggled when they couldn’t impose their will on elite teams. This year’s squad is confident they can beat anybody, but will let weaker teams make it a game. It’s worked so far, but it hasn’t been great for my peace of mind. [Cavs The Blog – Krolik]
But while LeBron played flawlessly, I’m not going to pretend the Cavaliers did as a team. Sure, you had to figure this one would be tighter than it was the first time out, but I wouldn’t say the Bulls made all that many adjustments that allowed them to keep it closer for longer. Facts are, Mo didn’t shoot it as well as he did the first time out tonight (2 of 8 from the field) – though he was attacking the rim for most of the night that got him onto the FT line (8 of 8 from the stripe) and allowed him to finish with 12 points 6 assists – and Shaq didn’t play the game he did the first time either (8 points 7 boards in only 15 minutes) – getting into foul trouble, and not connecting on a couple gimmies close. But with that said, neither played particularly bad either, and you’ll have that from time to time. [Stepien Rules – Brendan Bowers]
The Bulls fixed everything they targeted following their Game 1 loss, including a prolific performance from controversial extrovert Joakim Noah, who silenced the booing fans with a fierce performance. The Bulls rebounded better, they got second-chance points and they succeeded in neutralizing the Cavs’ size advantage.
Those are all issues the Cavs will have to work on in the two days before Game 3, when the Bulls will have a measure of momentum going back home in their last-ditch effort to make it a series.
But none of those details matter when James has the ball in his hands and the look in his eye as he did on this night. A string of Bulls had to take it in the gut, playing the proper defense on James and still watching him splash shot after shot over their outstretched arms. [Plain Dealer – Windhorst]