The King delivers: Cavaliers head to Chicago all squared up
By TAYLOR ROSEN
College Contributor Network
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were all business as soon as the referee tossed the ball in the air on Wednesday night. James led the Cavaliers to a convincing, 106-91 win over the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Just as I thought he would after a disappointing loss on their home floor in Game 1 on Monday night.
This one was over early, after the Cavaliers jumped out to an early double-digit lead in the first quarter. The Cavs were led by LeBron James, who stated after Game 1 he knew he had to step up, and that's exactly what he did. James finished with a game-high 33 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block in 34 minutes. Kyrie Irving followed with 21 points, three assists, and two steals.
Tristan Thompson was huge for the Cavaliers on the glass in Game 2. Thompson grabbed 12 rebounds, six of those were offensive rebounds, which gave the Cavs second-chance opportunities. James Jones was an unlikely hero for the Cavs in Game 2, scoring 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting from three.
Iman Shumpert also put forth another solid performance on Wednesday night. Shumpert scored 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting, but appeared to have pulled his groin in the second half. Shumpert worked out on the exercise bike near the locker room, and came back into the game during the fourth quarter for a few minutes. But it appeared as if the injury was still bothering him when he came back into the game.
This is the exact performance LeBron and the Cavaliers needed after losing Kevin Love for the season, and J.R. Smith for the first two games of this series. Love was in the building on Wednesday night, and received a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance at Quicken Loans Arena. Love's presence in the arena seemed to spark the Cavaliers on this night, and it showed in their performance. This was never a game, the Bulls were trailing by double-digits virtually the entire night.
The Cavs kept a comfortable lead by doing what I said they had to do after losing Game 1, they brought the intensity and focus needed to beat this Chicago team. The Cavaliers played complete team defense tonight, the rotations were crisp, and on point.
The team held Derrick Rose to 14 points, on 6-of-20 shooting from the field. Pau Gasol had 11 points, on 3-8 shooting, and Jimmy Butler had a team-high 18 points, on 5-of-14 shooting. That was a key for the Cavs heading into Game 2 -- it all starts with slowing down the trio of Rose, Gasol, and Butler.
With the series all tied headed to Chicago, the pressure now shifts to the Bulls. They must defend their home court, and now have to worry about what J.R. Smith brings to the Cavaliers on both sides of the ball. The Cavaliers certainly missed Smith in Game 1, so having another veteran shooter back will only space the floor even more for this Cavaliers offense.
The question for the Cavaliers heading into Game 3 is now how serious the Shumpert injury turns out to be. He came back into the game on Wednesday, but it was pretty obvious he was still hurting. With Smith now back, should the Cavaliers insert him back into the starting five? I believe they should start Smith if Shumpert is not at 100 percent.
I wanted Shumpert to start when they initially made the trade, and I still want him to start now, but if he isn't completely healthy it would not be in the Cavs' best interest to start him. Who knows though, with a day off tomorrow Shumpert might be feeling much better, and ready to go by Game 3.
The Bulls are now in a dog fight heading home to Chicago, with what is presumably the top dog in the Eastern Conference. You know those fans are going to be loud, they don't call that place the "Mad House" for nothing. The Cavaliers need to come out in Game 3 just how they did in Game 2, with maximum intensity, and effort. If they can do that, they should be able to steal Game 3 in Chicago with the momentum they now have after the rout on Wednesday night.
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