Cleveland superstar LeBron James decided to outdo Dwyane Wade. James posted his fifth career playoff triple-double to lead the Cavaliers to a decisive 121-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday afternoon. With the Cavaliers holding a 3-1 series lead and the series headed back to Cleveland, the only question is not if, but when, Cleveland advances to the second round.
1. James is focused -- even more than usual. LBJ almost seemed offended that Chicago dared compete in this series and actually win Game 3. He played with an anger that reminded one of another stellar athlete who wore No. 23. Cavaliers fans got a minor scare when James went to the locker room at the end of the first quarter with a sore elbow. But he quickly returned and promptly dismantled the Bulls with 37 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and a block. You thought Dwyane Wade's 46 against Boston earlier in the day was impressive? You should have seen LeBron's game. He had several highlights. The first came in the first quarter, when, moving to his left, he split a double-team, elevated like he had hydrogen boosters in his shoes and rocked the rim with incredible power. The second came at the end of the third quarter, when he hit a 45-foot jump shot. That's right, not a 45-foot heave. A jump shot.
2. Chicago was swarmed. Remember the scene in The Roadrunner cartoon where Wile E. Coyote is sauntering along and an anvil drops out of the sky and lands on his head? That is what Sunday was like for the Bulls. They were cruising along, actually holding a 45-44 lead midway through the second quarter. Less than 12 minutes later, Cleveland had outscored Chicago 35-13 and the Bulls were wondering where things had gone wrong. Essentially, James got hot and his teammates followed suit.
3. The Cavs are able to rest their big men. Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry acquired Shaquille O'Neal and re-acquired Zydrunas Ilgauskus so the Cavs' front line can eventually compete against the front lines of Orlando, Dallas or Los Angeles. Cavs coach Mike Brown said he is only going to play his elderly centers as much as he needs to, and that was very little against Chicago once things got out of control. O'Neal played just 17 minutes, totaling six points, seven rebounds and five fouls, while Ilgauskus was in for only three minutes.
4. The trade deadline deal is coming together. There was a lot of debate at the trade deadline about whether Ferry should deal for either Antawn Jamison or Amare Stoudemire, thus upsetting any chemistry that had been established over the first half of the season. But Jamison has seemed to fit in rather seamlessly, complementing James' big game with 24 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
5. Derrick Rose has a bright future. Chicago's Joakim Noah has gotten much of the attention because of his disparaging comments about the city of Cleveland. But Rose has easily been Chicago's best player and is establishing himself as one of the best young point guards in the league. He even showed a good deal of toughness when he twisted his ankle after stepping on O'Neal's foot and immediately re-entered the game. The Bulls, who barely made the playoffs as the eighth seed, clearly need a bit more talent to compete at the same level as the top-flight teams. But if Chicago is able to do that this summer, Rose could be a regular fixture in the postseason.
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