Heading into this series, there were major concerns about the Cavs keeping pace with the Bulls after losing two starters — Kevin Love for the entire postseason with a torn labrum, and J.R. Smith to a two-game suspension for his mauling of Jae Crowder in the clincher against Boston.
In Game 1 all of those concerns came to fruition.
Iman Shumpert and Mike Miller stepped into the starting lineup — although Tristan Thompson essentially filled Love’s role with 37 minutes off the bench — but it just wasn’t enough to beat the balanced Bulls.
Shump was able to come up with 22 big points, but only three points from Miller, and nine points from the bench meant a lot was going to be needed from the LeBron/Kyrie duo. Irving was able to produce an efficient 30 points, but despite a well-rounded game from LeBron, he just needed to be more of a scorer for the Cavs to prevail.
LBJ nearly triple-doubled with 19 points, 15 boards and nine dimes, but it came on 9-for-22 shooting along with six turnovers. The 15 rebounds helped fill Love’s void on the glass, but by LeBron standards, this was a poor game. Without scoring from King James, it was all Bulls from start to finish.
Although it was better than what Cleveland got, the Chicago bench still only provided 19 points. But the Bulls starting unit took care of business against a Cavs squad that’s still adjusting to major lineup changes.
As game broadcast noted, this was 1st time a LeBron James team never led in a HOME playoff game (85 games, including tonight)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 5, 2015
Derrick Rose led the way with 25 points, five boards and five assists, while Jimmy Butler had his usual game of 20 points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals. Pau Gasol controlled the paint, rejecting four shots in a classic 17 and 10 double-double effort. Joakim Noah didn’t even score, but was still a plus-13, doing what he does on the defensive end of the floor and crashing the glass.
It sounds like everything is setting up perfectly for the Bulls. But don’t be so sure of that yet, there’s two major keys that point to the Cavs still finding a way to win the series.
1. D-Rose has been significantly better on an extra day rest — something he won’t see for a while.
Derrick Rose: averaging 24.3 points per game this postseason on 2 or more days of rest (14.0 PPG on one day of rest)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 5, 2015
2. LeBron James has a history of adjusting to Game 1 losses.
Derrick Rose: averaging 24.3 PPG on 2+ days rest this postseason. This series won’t have another game with 2+ days rest until Game 7— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 5, 2015
This is why LBJ is the king. He’s become the master of making in-game and in-series adjustments. I don’t expect to see him have another game where he doesn’t drop over 20, nor another game where he shoots just 40 percent from the field.
Bulls top Cavaliers in Game 1 … 3rd straight time they’ve beaten a LeBron James team in Game 1 of playoff series (lost other 2 series)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 5, 2015
Obviously, it benefits the Bulls to take Game 1 on the road. But by no means does it mean they should now be the favorites in the series. History tells us that Chicago’s star is going to start trending downward, while Cleveland’s star is only going to improve. Even in a 0-1 hole, the advantage goes to LeBron James.
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