With 3.0 seconds showing on the clock and the Bulls inbounding side-out, the Cavaliers' defensive game plan was simple.
David Blatt had instructed his group to switch every screen, take away the elbow and pressure the Bulls guards into catching the ball going away from the hoop.
Inbounder Mike Dunleavy initially looked for Jimmy Butler cutting toward the near corner, though LeBron James was able to fight through a Taj Gibson screen to take that option away. Dunleavy then turned to his second option, Derrick Rose moving back toward the top of the key with Iman Shumpert trailing closely behind.
Rose received the bounce back from Dunleavy near the top of the key heading toward his right, where Taj Gibson was ready for a ball screen. Tristan Thompson, as he had been instructed to do, switched on to Rose and, using his 7-foot-1 wingspan, extended his right arm out as Rose turned and hoisted a 3-pointer with with 1.2 seconds showing on the clock.
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
The Cavaliers had defended the final play to near-perfection. Only a perfect shot from Rose could have beat them.
Rose's 25-footer soared through the air, banked off the glass and fell through the bottom of the net to give the Bulls a 99-96 victory and, more importantly, a 2-1 series lead.
After the game the Cavaliers were regretful for a number of sequences and statistics in the game, most notably the Bulls' 18 offensive rebounds, James' seven turnovers and allowing 23 fast-break points.
But Rose's game winner wasn't one of them. The Cavaliers simply had to tip their cap to a remarkable shot at the buzzer.
"He made a tough shot over probably one of our most athletic bigs, fully extended arm, off the glass," said J.R. Smith. "You’ve got to take that. Going (to his) right, at that."
Added Thompson: "He took one dribble, I contested it, got up over me and it went off the glass. It’s a tough shot, the only 3 he made all night. Got to live with it."
Said LeBron James: "You tip your hat to him. Hit a tough shot. We followed our coverages and he made it. But the game wasn’t won or lost on that one play. We had so many opportunities as well as they did, but they made one more play than us but we can learn from it."