The Cavaliers squeaked by the Bulls in Game 4 on Sunday thanks to a LeBron James buzzer-beater, while DeAndre Jordan camped out on the foul line and helped the Clippers pummel the Rockets. I’ll break down all of Sunday’s action in this version of the Daily Dose!
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Cavaliers 86, Bulls 84 (series tied 2-2)
For the second consecutive time in this series, Sunday’s game was decided by yet another buzzer-beater. This time, however, it was LeBron James sealing the deal for the Cavaliers with a huge jumper over Jimmy Butler with just 1.5 seconds left on the clock. That being said, there was no shortage of drama after it was revealed that James ignored head coach David Blatt’s final play call, as he was initially supposed to inbound the ball. James obviously wasn’t having any of it, and he basically told his teammates to get out of the way so that he could finish the job. Blatt is obviously going to catch a lot of heat for his players blatantly ignoring his decision making, but the most embarrassing part of this story is when he tried to call a timeout in the closing moments of the game when the Cavaliers had none left to give. Luckily for him, the refs didn’t acknowledge it and Cleveland escaped Chicago with the series tied 2-2.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this story shapes up prior to Game 5, but J.R. Smith said after the game that some of the players had some “doubt” about Blatt’s play call. James also didn’t hold back, saying, "The play that was drawn up, I scratched it. I just told coach, 'Give me the ball.’" This certainly doesn’t reflect well on Blatt, and it makes you wonder just how much his players truly trust him.
As for the game itself, LeBron James didn’t have the best shooting performance after going just 10-of-30 from the field, but he still managed to produce 25 points, 14 boards, eight assists, one steal, two blocks and one 3-pointer in 43 minutes. James is posting ridiculous numbers in this series, averaging 26.0 points, 11.3 boards, 9.0 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.8 steals, and it’s clear that he is going to put the team on his back with Kevin Love on the shelf and Kyrie Irving struggling with a foot injury.
Speaking of Irving, he had his second disappointing performance in a row and he looks like he is in a lot of pain out there. His foot sprain is clearly bothering him, and he finished with just 12 points on 2-of-10 shooting with four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 41 minutes. Derrick Rose had a field day every time Irving was matched up with him, so the Bulls should look to exploit that more in Game 5.
J.R. Smith hit a few big 3-pointers on his way to 13 points and three boards, and he continues to thoroughly outplay Iman Shumpert who finished with just five points on 1-of-8 shooting. Timofey Mozgov was a tank in the paint with 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks, while Tristan Thompson scored 12 points with seven boards.
The Bulls had to play Game 4 without the help of Pau Gasol, who was forced to sit out due to a hamstring issue. It isn’t clear if Gasol will be able to play in Game 5, and even though he is still experiencing soreness, I can’t imagine him not trying to give it a go in such a pivotal moment in the series. Taj Gibson drew the start for Gasol, but he was relatively quiet with just six points, eight boards, two assists and one block. Gibson actually left the game with a right knee injury in the fourth quarter and didn’t return, but it doesn’t appear to be serious and the Bulls should have an update on his status on Monday.
The Bulls couldn’t have asked for anything more from Derrick Rose, as the former MVP scored 31 points on 11-of-23 shooting with four assists, two boards and two 3-pointers in 41 minutes. As I said before, Kyrie Irving isn’t moving too well out there, so Rose should continue to attack him every chance he gets. Rose also tied up the game with less than 10 seconds to go after crossing up Iman Shumpert on his way to a driving layup, so the Bulls can feel pretty good heading into Game 5 knowing that Rose’s confidence in clutch situations is soaring.
Joakim Noah still hasn't scored in double digits in this series, but he did manage to produce eight points, 15 boards, one block and two steals. Noah doesn’t get to orchestrate the offense as much when Rose is on the floor, but it is still surprising to see him finish without an assist for the second game in a row. Nikola Mirotic got some extra playing time due to Gasol’s absence, but he was arguably the most disappointing Bull after scoring just three points on 1-of-9 shooting. However, Mirotic is loaded with talent, so if Gasol or Gibson were forced to miss any action I would definitely give him another look.
Jimmy Butler played suffocating defense on LeBron James once again on Sunday, and he was a huge reason why James had four turnovers in the first quarter. Butler finished the game with 19 points, five boards, two assists, three steals, one block and three treys, but he was unfortunately unable to prevent James from hitting a buzzer-beater in the corner which ended the game. Regardless of what happens in this series, Butler is quickly becoming one of the best two-way players in the NBA, and the dude is going to deserve every penny of the max contract he will receive this summer.
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Clippers 128, Rockets 95 (Clippers lead series 3-1)
In what was arguably the most boring game of the postseason, the Clippers trounced the Rockets on Sunday and now have a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Rockets still have some hope knowing that they could have two more home games on the schedule (if they survive), but their chances of advancing aren’t looking too good.
The Hack-A-Jordan show was on full display tonight, as DeAndre Jordan made 14-of-34 from the free throw line on his way to 26 points, 17 boards, two assists, two steals and one block. I love Jordan’s game, but I can’t imagine how dominant he would be if he became a respectable free throw shooter. In case you haven’t heard, The NBA wants to do something about this strategy in order to protect the flow of the game, so that will be one of the more interesting storylines during the offseason.
Chris Paul started again and produced 15 points, 12 assists, four boards, one steal and three 3-pointers in 26 minutes, and head coach Doc Rivers hinted before the game that Paul’s minutes will continue to be monitored so that he doesn't aggravate his hamstring. With a 3-1 lead, I don’t see any reason why the Clippers would increase Paul’s workload too much, so I expect him to see similar minutes in Game 5.
Blake Griffin was solid yet again with 21 points, eight boards, three assists and one block, while J.J. Redick chipped in 18 points, two assists and four 3-pointers on the night. Coming off a 25-point performance in Game 3, Austin Rivers continued his stellar play with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, adding five boards, one steal, two blocks and two treys in 24 minutes. Rivers’ play has allowed the Clippers to be more cautious with Paul, and he has quickly established himself as an unlikely hero in this series.
Dwight Howard looked disinterested from the start tonight, and he never really recovered after picking up a couple quick fouls in the first quarter. Howard would eventually foul out of this one (he also picked up his second technical on the same play), finishing with just seven points and six boards in 18 minutes. Head coach Kevin McHale said before the game that he wanted to get Howard more touches in the post, so he should be able to bounce back in Game 5 if he can stay out of foul trouble.
James Harden scored 21 points on 5-of-12 shooting in the loss, adding eight boards, six assists and two 3-pointers. He simply didn’t have enough help tonight, but it’s obvious that he will find a way to get his stats and he should be in line for a massive performance in a must-win game in Houston on Tuesday. Terrence Jones was quiet with just 10 points and six boards in 25 minutes, and he has had a really difficult time containing Blake Griffin in this series.
Houston’s bench was dreadful in this one, with Nick Johnson being the only player to reach double-digit scoring with 10 points, two assists and one 3-pointer. Josh Smith was a ghost with one point in 14 minutes, while Corey Brewer scored just four points on 2-of-8 shooting. If the Rockets want to force a Game 6, James Harden is going to need some help.