LeBron leads by example: Cavs take control in Game 5
By TAYLOR ROSEN
College Contributor Network
Those who watched the Cavaliers take on the Bulls in a pivotal Game 5 in Cleveland witnessed LeBron James follow up his buzzer beating game-winner that stole Game 4 with maybe his most impressive, and efficient performance since returning to the Cavaliers.
James showed no signs of a sprained ankle, and went on to score a game-high 38 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three blocks, and three steals in 41 turnover free minutes. James set the tone early by living in the painted area, and it paid off for the Cavs on this night.
Cavaliers Game 5 Shot Chart Against Bulls | PointAfter
James' wingman, Kyrie Irving, also battled through numerous injuries and chipped in 25 points, and for the majority of this game, Irving looked like himself again.
"I commend him for putting us on his back," Irving said after the game.
Jimmy Butler led the way for the Bulls scoring 29 points. Mike Dunleavy followed him, adding 19, but Derrick Rose had another off night. Rose scored 16, and 12 of those points came in the first quarter. Rose also aggravated a shoulder stinger, which he initially suffered in Game 1.
As Taj Gibson would go onto say after the game, last night's contest was "chippy." Well Taj, it certainly was. Taj, I'm not quite sure if you know this, but you can't push a smaller player to the ground, stand over him, and not expect him to do something in retaliation, and then kick him when he does.
When Matthew Dellavedova put Taj Gibson in a leg lock it was because a much bigger player had just thrown him to the ground like a rag doll. Following the leg lock, Gibson retaliated yet again with a kick to the behind of Dellavedova. Gibson was then ejected, and could possibly be looking at further discipline from the league office heading into Thursday's Game 6. To me, this was the Bulls (Gibson) letting their emotions get the best of them, and the frustration of blowing a 2-1 series lead.
Keep in mind the Cavaliers have seen this type of play recently (first round against Boston). Now these younger players on the Cavs are beginning to grow up right in front of our eyes after each crucial playoff game. The entire team in general showed poise when dealing with the Gibson/Dellavedova situation. You can't let a team knock you down, and walk all over you. But at the same time you cannot get caught up in bonehead activities and make a mistake that will cost the team like Gibson did on Tuesday night.
With all that being said, the Cavaliers will now head to Chicago looking to close the Bulls out in Game 6 on the road. It will be a tough task, but with LeBron James as the captain of the ship, they should be able to get the job done and end it in Chicago. The winner of Game 5 in a tied up best-of-seven series have gone on to win the series 81.7 percent of the time.
The Bulls have really missed veteran big Pau Gasol since he was forced to leave midway through Game 3 with hamstring tightness. If the Bulls want to have any shot of winning Game 6, and a chance to push the series back to Cleveland for what would be a dramatic Game 7, they will need Pau Gasol to battle through the injury and produce on Thursday night.
For the Cavs, it's all about following James' lead on Thursday night, and setting the tone early. An early haymaker will make it that much tougher on the Bulls, who have to fight and claw their way back into this series.
If James comes out aggressive early on in Game 6, I can't see how the Cavaliers don't finish them off in Chicago. I expect a tight game down the stretch, but ultimately I see LeBron and the Cavs being too much for this Bulls team to handle. Even with an injured Kevin Love, and a banged up Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Iman Shumpert.
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