CHICAGO — Jimmy Butler scored 21 points, rookie Cristiano Felicio added a career-high 16 and the Chicago Bulls kept their playoff hopes alive with a 105-102 victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night.
Chicago took the lead with a 15-0 run early in the fourth quarter and hung for the win when JR Smith missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, preventing Cleveland from clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference even though James scored 33. The Bulls still need to win their final two games and hope Indiana drops its remaining three in order to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
James had a huge game for Cleveland, hitting 13 of 17 shots – including 4 of 5 on 3-pointers. The four-time MVP also grabbed seven rebounds.
Smith hit seven 3s and scored 24 points, and Kevin Love added 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Things got real tight in the closing minute when Love hit a 3 and James scored on a layup to cut it to 104-101 with 30 seconds left.
Butler missed a pull-up jumper with about 9 seconds left. Cleveland’s Smith grabbed the rebound, got fouled and made the first free throw. He then rebounded his miss on the second attempt, and the Cavaliers worked the ball to Matthew Dellavedova, who shot an airball attempting a wide-open 3 with 2.5 seconds remaining.
Chicago’s Pau Gasol then hit 1 of 2 free throws to put the lead at three before Smith missed the potential tying 3 off an inbounds as time expired.
For Chicago, Butler scored 15 in the second half, and Felicio did not miss a shot in the game, going 7 for 7 from the field and 2 of 2 on free throws.
The Bulls were trailing 84-82 early in the fourth when a cutting Felicio dunked to start that 15-0 run. Felicio also had a driving layup during the spurt, Aaron Brooks added a layup and floater, and Butler buried a fadeaway shot with just under six minutes left to make it 97-84.
Cavaliers: G Iman Shumpert (left knee soreness) sat out. … Coach Tyronn Lue had no update on G Mo Williams, who returned to Cleveland this week for further evaluation on his injured left knee. He did not accompany the team to Chicago.