Through the first four games of the Bulls-Cavs series, LeBron James has been the first to admit that he needed to be more efficient. He hit a miracle buzzer-beater to win Game 4, but he scored his 25 points in that game on 30 shots.
Game 5 was a different story. James was a monster on Tuesday, doing a little bit of everything on the way to 38 points on 14-of-24 shooting, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks and — most crucially — no turnovers.
After early foul trouble from Jimmy Butler, James scored 16 points in the second quarter, taking advantage of the defensive matchups of Tony Snell and Kirk Hinrich. It’s hard to beat the Cavs when LeBron is playing like this.
In another encouraging development for Cleveland, Kyrie Irving appears to have a pulse again. After foot problems held him to 2-of-10 shooting in Game 4, he moved much better in Game 5. He finished with 25 points on an efficient 9-of-16 shooting and had five assists, after taking heat in the previous two games for putting up zeroes in that column.
The Bulls jumped out to an 8-0 start at the beginning of the game but couldn’t keep up the momentum, trailing by one at the end of the first quarter and finishing the night shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 28 percent from three-point range.
The Bulls, who have been without Pau Gasol for the last two games, weren’t able to find efficient offense from anyone outside of Jimmy Butler, who finished with 29 points and 9 rebounds. Derrick Rose cooled off after a hot start, shooting 5-for-7 from the field in the first quarter but making just two more shots the rest of the night and finishing 7-for-24.
Despite being outplayed at both ends, though, the Bulls were still very much in this game at the end. They trailed by two with under a minute to go, but a missed three-pointer by Butler cost them an opportunity to take the lead. They were only able to score two points the rest of the night, and from there, they were forced to play the foul game.
Now, the Bulls’ season is on the ropes heading back to Chicago on Thursday for Game 6. It’s do or die for them, and maybe for Tom Thibodeau’s time in Chicago.