Bulls, Cavaliers Likely To Finish Sweeps, Set Up Showdown In East Semifinals
The 2015 NBA playoffs in all honesty have lacked any drama at all. The home teams have mostly dominated, other than in the Raptors-Wizards series. The cream is clearly rising to the top — no big upsets here like in the single-game elimination of the NCAA Tournament.
While the Golden State Warriors have legitimate challengers in the Western Conference like Memphis, Houston and either San Antonio or the L.A. Clippers, most everyone believes that the East winner will be between Cleveland and Chicago. Those two could have their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup set by Sunday.
Derrick Rose Is Back!
Chicago is up 3-0 in its first-round series against Milwaukee and can finish things off Saturday afternoon. The Bulls are 5-point favorites on BetOnline with a total of 188.5 points. Derrick Rose has looked back to his MVP self in this series and he had perhaps his best game this season in Thursday’s 113-106 double overtime win with 34 points, eight assists, five rebounds and three steals in a season-high 48 minutes. The Bulls were plus-15 when he was on the floor. Rose also hit the tying free throw with 4.9 seconds lef in regulation. The Bucks haven’t been able to stop him or All-Star Jimmy Butler, who had 24 points in a whopping 53 minutes in Game 3.
The Bulls played without one of the NBA’s top rookies in Nikola Mirotic in Game 3 as he is dealing with a strained quad and bruised knee and he’s unlikely to play in Game 4. That again should mean more minutes for Taj Gibson and Tony Snell off the bench. Both were good in Game 3 as Snell had 16 points and Gibson eight points and 10 rebounds.
The Bucks are a fine defensive team but don’t have the firepower on offense to compete with Chicago. They had chances to win at the end of regulation and the first OT on Thursday. Khris Middleton’s solid look at a jumper missed at the end of regulation and a poorly executed possession left O.J. Mayo to force a contested jumper that went long to close out overtime.
Cavs Teaching Celtics Playoff Basketball
Cleveland has been pushed a bit by Boston but took a 3-0 lead thanks to Thursday’s 103-95 victory in Boston. James scored 31 points in his first playoff game in Boston since a masterful performance in the 2012 postseason. Kevin Love added 23 points for Cleveland, none bigger than two 3-pointers after Boston cut the lead to 95-92 on Evan Turner’s 3-pointer with 2:45 left. Those shots put Cleveland up 101-93 with 26 seconds to go.
J.R. Smith, who arrived an hour before Thursday morning’s shootaround with LeBron, had easily his best performance of the series – netting eight of his 15 points in the third quarter. Smith went 6-for-12 overall, including 3-of-8 from long-distance, to go with five boards, two assists and a pair of steals. It was James’ first postseason game in Boston since Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals when he was with Miami. He had 45 points and 15 rebounds in that game to avoid elimination.
The Cavs won three of four from the Bulls during the regular season but it was rare everyone was healthy for the same game. Cleveland is the -250 favorite on BetOnline to win the East and the Bulls +500. The East semis aren’t likely to start until next Friday at the earliest, perhaps next Sunday.
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