Cleveland vs. Chicago, Game 5: Cavaliers 96, Bulls 94
Derrick Rose – Last year’s Rookie of the Year has done nothing but improve in his second season, culminating in his great play throughout this playoff series. At halftime, he had 16 points and managed to duplicate that in the second half to finish with 31 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. When he decides to get to the rim, no single defender in the league is up to the task of preventing him. Once his outside shot develops further, he’ll be a nearly unstoppable force.
Antawn Jamison – The Cavs needed a scoring power forward, and that is exactly what they got in Mr. Jamison. He had 20 points at the half and wound up with 25 for the game, including a 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter that put the Cavs up by 9 points — a lead that they needed every inch of before the game was over with. His versatility in scoring and his ability to rebound have made the Cavs a prohibitive favorite to come out of the East in my opinion.
Joakim Noah – Can we just officially rename him “Do Everything”? There is almost nothing that he cannot or will not do in order to give his team an edge or propel them to a win. He has guarded everyone from Shaq to LeBron to whomever else Cleveland put on the floor at any given time. His floor burns have floor burns. He truly is a “near-7 foot Shane Battier”, as Chris Vernon likes to call him. If he can ever manufacture a true offensive game outside of 8 feet, then he’ll be an invaluable, irreplaceable member of a team that will make several playoff appearances.
Derrick Rose’s luck – If it weren’t for bad luck, Rose wouldn’t have had any luck at all in this game. In the 4th quarter, he had not one, but two shots that were halfway down before spinning off the rim. He also had what should have been called an “and one” taken away from him, as well as banging up his wrist near the end of the game. What’s the opposite of “luck o’ the Irish”? Whatever it is, that’s what he had last night.
Officiating – I’m going to confine this to the sequence of events that led to fouls being called on Brad Miller and Joakim Noah on 3 consecutive plays as they attempted to stop Shaq from bulldozing them. I remember the days when players used to hack O’Neal with reckless abandon because that was the only way they could envision slowing himd own. Now, it seems like you are not even allowed to put a forearm on the big fella before the whistles start blowing and the fouls start mounting. Shaq has been in the league for a long time, and I find it curious that the officials are just now starting to baby him. In any case, I do not like to see it — especially in the playoffs.
LeBron James’ passivity – I know, I know, he finished with a near triple-double (19/10/9), but until the 5:00 mark of the 4th quarter, he acted more interested in what the Cavs’ dance team was doing than in helping his team win this ballgame. He is the most dominant player in the entire league, so it is time for him to start acting like it every single night.
Cavaliers – Cleveland goes on to meet the Boston Celtics, who dispatched the Miami Heat, despite Dwyane Wade’s best efforts. As long as LeBron plays like the MVP that he is, instead of being a “facilitator” (*sigh*), then they should be able to best Boston and move on to face Orlando in the Conference Finals. LeBron’s right arm injury could definitely prove to be problematic, but we won’t know for sure until the doctors have thoroughly examined him. They will ovbiously still need solid play from Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, and the rest of the supporting cast, but everyone knows that as goes The King, so go the Cavaliers.
Bulls – Chicago made the playoffs for the second year in a row and, although some would argue that they were more successful last year when they took Boston to 7 games, I believe that this year they showed the rest of the NBA more by hanging with Cleveland game after game, despite losing in 5 games. Derrick Rose is a prodigious talent, but he needs another talented scorer beside him — another potential superstar, as it were. The Bulls have the cap space, the young talent, and the attractive big market to lure in a big name free agent, so now all they need is for their front office to pull that off. Otherwise, they’ll be “stuck in the middle” for yet another season, while Rose continues to get better and begins to wonder what life on the other side of the fence might be like. Chicago needs to make a big splash this offseason so that they can take advantage of the fact that Boston is aging and Miami is in turmoil. That way they can take a big stride towards getting out of the first round next year by securing homecourt advantage for at least one round in the playoffs next season