This was the promise of LeBron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a dominant Game 5 performance from one of the great players the game has seen, and the hometown kid put the hometown team in solid position to possibly advance.
38 points on 24 shots, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals, three blocks and perhaps most importantly, zero turnovers. Each time the Bulls got a run-out, could have stepped up to take control on the game, LeBron James was there for a huge block. When the Bulls got out to a big lead early on in the game, LeBron James was there, working in the post.
Your Cleveland Cavaliers 106, the Chicago Bulls 101.
It wasn't easy. Mike Dunleavy was tremendous. He's so good moving off ball, and the hobbled Kyrie Irving struggled to track him. Derrick Rose was on fire early. Chicago didn't quit, and they play with fire.
But the Cavs responded with their own energy. Matthew Dellavedova was an instigator, and worked hard defensively to slow down Rose. He got Taj Gibson worked up, in a way that was somewhat out of control, but hit the one shot he was asked to hit, a three pointer. Tristan Thompson played 39 minutes, had 12 points, 10 rebounds, and made the Bulls feel him on each possession. These guys never stop working and in some ways embody what the Cavs are at this point.
Let's talk about Kyrie Irving. He's now said he might be 30, 40, 50 percent of what he normally is. His defense wasn't great. But the Cavs are a team that needs offense with Kevin Love out, and he provided it. 25 points on 16 shots? Game sealing free throws? He hit them. He's working ridiculously hard out there.
There'll be more analysis to come. Timofey Mozgov was pretty good defensively, but couldn't get it going on offense. David Blatt stuck with the offense-deficient starters a little longer than I would have liked. He adjusted. One more win and the Eastern Conference Finals have been achieved.
With what this team has been through, that would be worth celebrating. What did you see?