There's always next time, right? The first game of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals didn't quite go how the Cleveland Cavaliers planned it. I'm pretty sure that even with the lost of Kevin Love and suspension of JR Smith, the Cavs did not see themselves trailing in this series. Especially so soon.
Our Midwest rivals began the by taking immediate advantage of mismatches created by the absence of two Cleveland starters. Mike Miller was placed in the starting lineup in hopes to keep the spacing of the Cavs offense and to replace the shooting threats that Love and Smith held. Coach Tib for the Bulls attacked Miller, who is not known for his defense, with versatile big man Pau Gasol. Gasol's high and offensive skill made Miller all but nonexistent on defense.
Chicago's advantage in the post opened up the floor for their perimeter players like the Red Sea. The Bulls made their first six attempts from the 3-point line in the FIRST QUARTER. Most noticeably was Mike Dunleavy who score 13 quick first quarter points. You know you're in for a long night when Dunleavy is having a night like that.
David Blatt quickly went to his bench and brought on Tristan Thompson. Thompson's energy and hustle seemed to help but it could not get the Cavs over the hump. It was as if the Bulls could do no wrong. Jimmy Butler was playing excellent defense and scoring well on offense. Derrick Rose also had the type of performance that we were use to seeing before all of the injuries. When you add all of those things up, it equaled a long night for Cleveland.
While the Bulls were playing barely less than perfect, the Cavs were struggling just to look like a playoff team. Kyrie Irving went 1-7 from the field with only 3 points in the first quarter. LeBron was the only one that seems to be able to gain any traction early. However, the Cavs were able to pick things up later in the half.
The extra mojo was not enjoyed by the Cavs for long. Chicago responded back with seven straight points and extending the lead back out to double digits. That was the theme for the majority of the game. The Cavs would close the lead but could not get over the hump. Then the Bulls would make a run and kill the momentum of Cleveland.
This was most evident coming out of halftime. Only being down five at the half, Cleveland was able to take their first lead early in the third quarter. But the lead only lasted two possessions. Chicago answer back with an immediate 15-0 run putting the Cavs back down by double digits.
The two teams just seemed to be complete opposites. The Cavs could not make a shot but the Bulls could not miss. The Bulls were getting to most of the loose balls and rebounds, besides James and Thompson, the Cavs got very few. Cleveland's offense looked broken and stagnant, Chicago's looked like as smooth, strong and power as a performance car engine.
In a situation where Cleveland was down one rebounder and scorer, no one stepped up to take his place. Mozgov spent most of the game on the bench because he was ineffective at both guarding the pick-and-roll and checking Gasol away from the rim. Coach Blatt went with a small lineup, which was actually more affective, but it was not enough to get the job done. The Wine and Gold were not able to sustain energy or efficiency long enough to get the upper hand and our one-on-one defense was something I hope to never see again, by ANYONE.
My take on game one is this: They played as well as the could and we played as bad as we could. I mean seriously, things could not go much better for them or worse for us. We looked like a team that had a lot of time off and that was missing two starters. Chicago looked like a team that had just beat their last opponents by 50+.
I would put my money on the fact that Dunleavy will not be able to have that type if first quarter performance again. Just look at how little he did for the remaining three quarters of game one. Rose does not play nearly as well on short rest. So that will play a large part in what he will be able to do next game. Jimmy Butler will probably play well but the energy he will have to extend against LeBron and/or Kyrie may neutralize him. The Cavs will struggle with the big men of Chicago but that is something they will just have to battle against in game two.