Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers (-5, 191 o/u)
There’s a sense that, if the Cleveland Cavaliers (59-31, 34-11 home) can pull out a win in their Eastern Conference semifinal with the Chicago Bulls (56-36, 26-20 away), it may prove a Pyrrhic victory. Kevin Love (shoulder) is out for the remainder of the season; Kyrie Irving is dealing with tendinitis in his knee, and now LeBron James is somewhat hobbled after twisting his ankle in Sunday’s 86-84 win.
With the series now level at two games apiece, the wounded Cavaliers return home for Game 5 tonight at Quicken Loans Arena (7:00 PM Eastern).
Despite rolling his ankle, James refused to come out of Game 4, eventually hitting the game winner at the buzzer.
“I wasn’t coming out,” James said to the Associated Press. “I can’t afford to come out, not only because of the position that our team is in but because of who I am as a leader of this team. I was going to fight through it no matter what.”
James was indeed the leader of his team on Sunday, not only emotionally, but on the statsheet, as well. “King” James had 25 points in the win, while the injured Irving – who looked a shell of himself – scored only 12 to go along with two assists.
“The kid is a warrior,” James added about Irving to the AP. “What he’s going through right now, no one can relate. He’s played 40 minutes on one foot the last two games. Just his presence on the floor, no matter if he’s playing on one foot or not, you have to account for him because of his ability to make shots. His ability to command things out on the floor. It goes a long way.”
In lieu of a healthy Irving, Cleveland got valuable contributions from big man Timofey Mozgov (15 points and nine rebounds), while J.R. Smith added 13 points in his second game back from suspension.
As for James’ last-minute shot, Derrick Rose, who banked home a game-winner on Friday, said to the AP, “There’s nothing you can do about it. He hit a great shot. He’s a hell of a player. We just have to make sure that if we’re in that position again, just make sure that we force him out a little bit more or make someone else get the ball.”
The Bulls fell on Sunday despite Rose playing up to his former MVP stature. The Chicago point guard scored 31 points, while Jimmy Butler added 19. Crucially, the Bulls were without Pau Gasol (hamstring), who remains questionable for Game 5.
Considering the Bulls are 6-3-1 ATS in their last ten – and Cleveland’s injuries are mounting – the play is the Bulls and the points (+5).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA (20090930-6029) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)