In a way, this game’s must-win status for the Bulls was a microcosm of their relationship with the Cavs in LeBron James’ first year back. If there is any year Chicago will get past Cleveland, it’s this one, since James and his new teammates are feeling each other out. And if there was any game in their second-round they would be in position to steal, it’s one of the first two. Kevin Love is out, and so is J.R. Smith. Smith will be back for Game 3, and the Cavs missed his shooting badly on Monday as the Bulls held on and withstood a late run to take Game 1 in Cleveland, 99-92.
Despite a late scare with a hit to the shoulder, Derrick Rose was mostly spectacular in Game 1. He led the Bulls with 25 points on 11-of-26 shooting and even shoot 3-of-6 from long range. It was exactly the kind of statement game Chicago needed from him to start the series, especially with Joakim Noah so ineffective.
The Bulls started the game with a 27-15 lead after the first quarter, thanks largely to a slot start by Kyrie Irving. But Irving heated up and finished with 30 points. He was forced to do a lot of the heavy lifting with Jimmy Butler tailing LeBron all game.
After being ineffective for most of the first-round series against the Bucks, Pau Gasol took advantage of the Cavs’ weak frontcourt defense for a 21-point, 10-rebound, four-block night.
This is only the beginning, and there aren’t a lot of sustainable takeaways for either team. James was comparatively forgettable, which is probably not going to happen again. The Bulls shot 55.6 percent from three-point range, which is also probably not going to happen again. But without Love, the Cavs look much more beatable than they would otherwise.