Bulls steal Game 1 from Cavaliers in Cleveland
By TAYLOR ROSEN
College Contributor Network
After eight days off the Cleveland Cavaliers were back in action against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena in game one of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. It didn't take long for the packed house in attendance to notice the Cavaliers' lack of effort, intensity, and focus. The Cavs struggled right from the jump, and found themselves trailing 21-7 early on in the ball game. The Bulls started off on fire, and connected on five of their first six three point attempts.
The Cavaliers eventually shook off a bit of the rust on one side of the ball. The Cavs cut the Bulls double-digit lead to five by halftime, and it seemed they had settled in, but on this night, that was not the case.
The third quarter was almost a mirror image of the first. The Cavaliers displayed a lack of focus specifically on the defensive end, which kept them in the Bulls rear-view mirror. I can't even count on my hands the amount of possessions the Cavaliers allowed a Bulls player to shoot a wide-open jump shot in the second half. They must make an adjustment on defending the pick and roll, as well as the pick and pop game because the Bulls were exposing that facet of their game big time on Monday night.
With that being said, you still have to give credit where it's due, and on Monday night the Bulls were hitting nearly everything they put up. From tough, contested step backs to wide-open mid-range jumpers, the Bulls were hitting on all cylinders Derrick Rose was the captain of the Bulls' ship on Monday night, he finished the game with 25 points on 11-for-26 shooting, grabbing five rebounds, and five assists in 38 turnover-free minutes. Pau Gasol added 21 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Jimmy Butler chipped in 20 points, five rebounds, six assists, and three steals.
It was a vintage Derrick Rose performance that had me thinking back to his MVP year in 2011 when the Bulls knocked off a Miami Heat team led by LeBron James, at home in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. James and the Heat would go onto dominate the rest of that series, finishing the Bulls off in five games. Just a few years later in 2013, it happened again. After losing Game 1 to Chicago again, James and the Heat would go on and win the next four, and finish the series in five yet again.
Kyrie Irving poured in a game-high 30 points on 10-for-23 shooting, adding six assists. Iman Shumpert followed with 22 points. James added 19 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and three steals in what was certainly an off-night for the King. James shot the ball only four times in the first quarter and that's something he must correct heading into Game 2 so the Bulls don't jump out to an early double-digit lead again.
The Cavaliers certainly missed double-double machine Kevin Love and sharpshooter J.R. Smith on Monday night. But come this time of year, there's just no time for making excuses -- injuries happen. The Cavaliers can turn things around and win this series just like James and his Heat teams of the past have done.
It starts with their energy level and focus, both are an absolute necessity. The Chicago Bulls are an extremely talented and well-coached team, you cannot beat them by just going through the motions. Expect a veteran like James, who has been there before, to come out very aggressive early on Wednesday night to set the tone for the Cavaliers.
As mentioned above, the Cavaliers must come out with a different plan on stopping Rose in the pick-and-roll situations with Gasol. The combination of Rose, Gasol, and Butler killed the Cavaliers on Monday night. Now it's not likely the Bulls shoot the ball as well as they did on Monday night. Rose and company were hitting difficult, contested shots from all over the floor and I don't see those tough shots continuing to fall throughout the entirety of this series.
It starts with slowing that trio down for the Cavs, and contesting every jump shot they throw up. It really comes down to how bad the Cavs want it. We all know the pressure will be on the Cavaliers in Game 2, in what is virtually a must win for this Cavaliers team. Heading to Chicago down two games to none is not a winning recipe, and it's not what Cavs Nation had in mind.
Taylor Rosen is a junior at Kent State University. He spent time with The Stater covering Kent State football and basketball. Taylor is from Cleveland, and has Cleveland sports under a microscope. Follow him on Twitter: @T_Rosen11