NBA Playoffs: Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers begin semi-finals on winning note
A lacklustre performance by LeBron James coupled with the absence of Kevin Love saw Cleveland Cavaliers’ go down to an inspired Chicago Bulls unit, which got its Eastern Conference semi-final campaign off to a winning start.
The Bulls, guided by Derrick Rose’s stunning performance, beat Cavaliers 99-92 in an exciting contest. Showing no outward signs of the knee injuries that had hampered him earlier this season, Rose turned out an amazing performance, scoring 25 points. He found the perfect foil in Paul Gasol, who, with 21 points, ensured that the Bulls maintained their winning momentum.
It was heartbreak for the Cleveland Cavaliers and James, who expressed dissatisfaction with his performance. "We all just have to play better; I wasn't that good tonight”, said a dejected James, after finishing the match with 19 points and nine assists.
On the other hand, an exultant Rose couldn’t hide his delight at having been at the fore of his team’s win. "I just appreciate everything; getting back on the floor and just every aspect of basketball. It's allowed me to change my life and my family's life. I owe so much to this sport. I'm just trying to roll with it”, he said.
The Cavaliers, despite trailing by a mere four points in the final minutes, were unable to cover the deficit as James missed two turnovers, which proved extremely costly towards the end.
The Bulls, who have been blighted by a series of injuries this season, seem to be hitting top form towards the business end of the season. Coming off of a thumping 54-point win against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bulls nosed ahead early in the match and did not buckle under the pressure when the Cavaliers mounted a spirited comeback to head home with a comfortable 7-point win.
Griffin stars as Clippers beat Rockets
With 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists, Blake Griffin made sure that Los Angeles Clippers were not short-handed owing to Chris Paul’s absence.
The Clippers, who are being touted by many experts and commentators as the favourites to win the NBA Championship this season, scored a convincing 117-101 win over the Houston Rockets in their first game of the Western Conference semi-final.
However, the Rockets did not surrender without a fight. With seven and a half minutes remaining, Rockets scored five straight points to slice the lead down to just one point. However, Matt Barnes came to the Clippers’ rescue, as he made two three-pointers in a 12-0 run to make it 101-88 three minutes later.
Griffin, along with Jamal Crawford, who scored 22 points and Barnes with 20, shouldered the burden in Paul’s absence. "Without Chris, everybody has to step up; but it's not one person's job, it's everybody's job. And if you look at the stat sheet tonight, it was everybody”, said Griffin.
For the Houston Rockets, Dwight Howard, with 22 points was the best performer. Although James Harden scored 20 points, he also accounted for nine of the team’s 23 turnovers.