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The Bulls seized the day, but the Cavs will seize the series

(Photo courtesy of the NEOMG)
I'm not worried, and I'm not sure why.

The Cleveland Cavaliers played a basketball game last night, and they lost. It was one that we should call important.

It was a playoff game...

...and it was against the Chicago Bulls.

We were reminded repeatedly about "the shot" by Jordan over Craig Ehlo, who Chris Webber liked because he had "floppy blonde hair" and "looked like a surfer."

We were reminded repeatedly that Kevin Love was out for the series, and that J.R. Smith was out for the first two games.

The Cavs only scored 15 points in the first quarter, were outrebounded and outassisted by the Bulls, who were energized by their two starts, Derrick Rose and Pao Gasol, who scored 25 and 21 respectively. They were helped out with key shots from Jimmy Butler, who scored 20.

As a team, the Bulls shot 50%, to the Cavs 42%, and shot 56% from behind the arc, to the Cavs 27%.

The Cavs never led in the game, not even for a second, which was a first in the LeBron James/Playoff era.

In other words, it wasn't a good game to be a Cleveland Cavaliers fan.

But I'm still not worried.

Let's start with LeBron James, who really didn't have a good game last night. He had too many turnovers, and while there were moments in which he drove to the hoop with ease, he spent much of the game delivering outlet passes and taking jump shots.

He wasn't the dominating presence that led Miami to back-to-back titles. Honestly, he reminded me more of the LeBron from 2010, who was willing to let others decide the game.

Yet, he almost had a triple double, scoring 19 points, with 15 boards and 9 assists. While he had six of the Cavs nine turnovers, and some were at crucial times, it's easy to forget that a near triple double can BE a bad game for the best basketball player on the earth.

He was pissed after the game.

"We all just have to play better," said James, who had nine assists but six turnovers. "I wasn't that good tonight."
To be fair to King James, they/he does have to play better, but if he wraps up a few of those turnovers, and attacks the hoop more, the hole is fixed there.

I'm not going to bet against that happening.

Outside of that low-scoring first quarter, the Cavs managed 26, 29 and 22 points in each of the next three quarters. While they lumbered when it counted in the fourth (likely tired legs from a team missing two starters), things were much more "normal."

What's my point?

There's no doubt the Cavs were rusty when the game started, and likely. No, it's not an excuse. They still fired back offensively to tie the game, then laid an egg as the Bulls ran off 15 straight points, essentially ending the game.

They won't be rusty in Game 2, I can promise you that.

That 15 point first quarter won't happen again. The Bulls can play defense, but they weren't that good last night. When Cleveland attacked the hoop, the Kyrie Irving led Cavs couldn't be stopped. Kyrie was sublimely good last night, showcasing his new leadership and scoring that we saw so often during the regular season.

Other than James and Iman Shumpert, there just wasn't anyone else hitting shots. Hell, Kyrie was only 1-for-4 from behind the arc. If you take away Shumpert's 4-for-10 from three, the Cavs were a sour 3-for-16 from three-point land.

The Cavs were fifth in the league during the regular season with a 37% percentage from three point land, and while you can make a really SOLID case that Kevin Love and J.R. Smith's absence will certainly play a part in that final percentage, and that a drop 10% in overall shooting is normal in that situation (it isn't), the Bulls improved 20 percent from their season average of 35%.

That's just not going to happen every night, and if it does, the Cavs are destined to lose.

The Bulls played really good last night. Derrick Rose looked like the beast that won the MVP all those years ago, before several injuries made him a member of the M.A.S.H. unit, instead of a member of the All Star team.

Can he continue that?

It's an if.

Pao Gasol was left open time-and-time again for open 15-18 footers, until LeBron started guarding him, which started to close the door a bit. That's not going to happen again, if James, in fact, continues to guard the Bulls aging forward.

This isn't a knock on the Bulls. They are a damn good basketball team, but they looked like utter trash in the opening round, minus their game six, 54-point blowout of the overmatched Milwaukee Bucks. Still, those Bucks managed to run off two games in a row against the Bulls, who took a 3-0 lead.

The Cavs aren't the Bucks, even without Smith and Love.

The Bulls play well with their backs against the wall, and I've heard several really smart NBA people (no, Chris Webber isn't one of them) talk about how well the Bulls play when they are the underdog.

They just beat the Cavs at home. They're underdogs no more.

But I have to ask one question:

Can they play any better against a LeBron James/Kyrie Irving led Cleveland Cavaliers team than they did last night?

While the national media was salivating at a Cavaliers loss and lavishing deserved praise on the talented Chicago Bulls team, they overlooked the simple fact that it's quite possible that's the best they can offer. It's quite possible that if the Bulls shoot 45% (still good) from three last night, and hold the Cavs to 22 in the first quarter (still low), that the Cavs walk away with a win.

Please don't misunderstand. The Bulls are a talented team, and they very well could be about to hit their stride after that Bucks-decimation. It's also just as likely that the Bulls revert to the form prior to that game six, and play like the slack-jawed team that made Jason Kidd look brilliant.

That's just who they are.

If Derrick Rose isn't the superstar, or even quite the superstar, the Bulls lose.

If Pao Gasol is guarded a little better, the Bulls lose.

If Mike Dunleavy plays like Mike Dunleavy, and not Larry Bird in the first quarter, the Bulls lose.

The Cavs do have questions to answer. I was let down by David Blatt last night, who clearly struggled figuring out a way to compensate for two starters being out of the game. That's ultimately their biggest problem.

Mike Miller can't start, but really, neither can James Jones. Shawn Marion is 100 years old, and Kendrick Perkins is like a stationary tree. He can be big and important if you move right too him, but unless he has someone to beat down, he shouldn't be anywhere near that starting line-up.

LeBron James can't pass the ball when he has a lane to the basket, especially without Love or Smith behind the arc. He needs to be LeBron James, the Bull...no pun intended.

The Cavs have a hole...for one more game...at home.

It's a hole they couldn't overcome last night, because the Bulls played a nearly perfect game, while the Cavs didn't. It's a hole they'll compensate for on Wednesday Night, at home, with two of the game's top ten players pissed off they didn't play well, even though one almost had a triple-double, and the other had 30.

The Cavs will need Mozgov to be better, and will need Iman Shumpert to continue his outstanding play in a starting role. They'll need Tristan Thompson to score a bit more, and rebound on both sides of the court, just a little better too.

They'll need a Jones or Miller to be great for the ten minutes they're on the court, and by great I mean making a shot or two, and playing something more than ole' defense.

But those are things that happen pretty regularly against pretty good basketball teams...even without Love and Smith.

No, I'm not worried about the Cleveland Cavaliers, and neither should you, because this is a team that will rebound with a vengeance on Wednesday night, and even if the Bulls are perfect...

...it won't be good enough.
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