Home' South Florida Times : SFT 050715 Contents 8A | MAY 7 — 13, 2015 | SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES | SFLTIMES.COM
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — L
James embraces challenges, big or small,
personal or professional. They drive him,
push him, make him dig deeper.
He's now facing another daunting one.
Actually, a dozen of them.
The Bulls are charging at him.
On Monday, the Cleveland Cavaliers,
missing two starters, opened their best-
of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals
against a confident and finally healthy Chi-
cago team looking to exact some revenge
on James, who has eliminated them from
the NBA playo ffs three times since 2010.
The Cavs, who entered the postseason
as the East's favo rite to make the NBA Fi-
nals, were without power forward Kevin
Love and his 10 rebounds
and floor-spacing abil-
ity and will remain out for
the rest of the postseason
after he underwent shoul-
der surgery. And, they
also missed starting guard
J.R . Smith, who has been
suspended for Games 1
Down two key playe rs,
Cleveland appears vul-
nerable - except James is
“Nah, we're not vulner-
able at all,” James said.
“It's just basketball.You go
out and play, you try to win
and give it yo ur best shot.”
Speaking of shots, the
Cavs got some hard ones
from the Bulls.
Cleveland is coming
off a four-game series
sweep over Boston that
was anything but easy.
The Celtics were physi-
cal with the Cavs, who
lost Love when Boston's
Kelly Olynyk yanked his
shoulder from the socket in Game 4. The
Bulls are one of the league's toughest, most
defensive-minded teams, and the Cavs are
preparing for a dogfight.
“Without a doubt,” Cavs guard Iman
Shumpert said following practice Sunday.
“If not more (physical). I j ust think that's just
every round you go through, it
just gets a little more phys-
ical because, g
don't want to go
He's never lost to them in the playoffs,
beating Chicago in 2010 in his first stint
with Cleveland and twice with Miami
(2011, 2013). He's averaging 27.1 points,
8.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists while going
12-3 against the Bulls in postseason.
Despite his dominance of the Bulls,
James dismissed any thought the past
gives him any confidence.
“Every ye ar is different,” he said. “Yes,
I've had success but that doesn't mean
anything today. My approach is always the
same but every playo ff run is different and
for me I have to make sure myself and my
guys are re ady for a very, very competitive
and well-coached ball club.”
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau first
crossed postseason paths with James as
an assistant in Boston. He didn't have much
luck scheming ways to stop James then ei-
“The only thing you can do with him
is try to make him work for his points,”
Thibodeau said. “Yo u can't really give him
a steady diet of anything. Yo u have to mix it
up on him. The thing that makes him who
he is he can beat you a lot of different ways.
It's not only his scoring. It's his passing.
He's seen every type of defense there is.”
And unlike past Cleveland teams, the
Cavaliers have two All-Stars: James and
guard Ky rie Irving, who averaged 23.3
points against the Celtics in his first playoff
“Any team that has LeBron and Ky rie,
yo u're not short-handed,” Thibodeau said.
Here are some other things to keep in
mind as the Bulls and Cavs tangle:
PUBLIC ENEMY: Bulls center Joakim
Noah has spent the past few seasons
needling Cleveland -and James.
In the past, Noah has criticized the city
for not being exciting, and he and James
have h ad their share of physical and verbal
confrontations. Still, James respects Noah
and what he means to the Bulls.
“A guy that you hate to compete
against but if he's your teammate yo u
love him,” James said. “He's one of their
glue guys. He plays well, they play
well. His energy, his effort, he's a guy
that you as a fan love to watch him, as a
competitor you hate him.”
NO LOVE: The script is flipped for the
Bulls. For once, they have all their key play-
ers available, while the other team is miss-
“I guess that's the irony there,” Chica-
go's Mike Dunleavy Jr. said. “We certainly
have (empathy) because we've been in
that situation before.”
The last time the Bulls had Derrick Rose
available for the duration of the postseason
was in 2011, when he capped an MVP sea-
son with a loss to Miami in the conference
SEASON SERIES: Cleveland went 3-1
vs. Chicago during the regular season,
winning the most recent pre-finals match-
up 99-94 on April 5. Rose missed that game
with a knee injury.
In the Monday match-up, the Bulls were
decisive in their victory over the Cavs win-
ning 99 to 92.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PBA-ONLINE.NET
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers
PHOTO COURTESY OF GALLERYHIP.COM
Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls
By The Associated Press
No. 2 Houston Rockets (56-26, 4 -1) vs. No. 3 Los An-
geles Clippers (56-26, 4-3).
Season Series: Split, 2-2. Each team won once
at home and once on the road, with the Clippers
winning in more decisive fashion. They cruised to
17-point and 15-point wins while the Rockets wo n
by two points and five points in their two victories.
Story Line: W ill Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the
Clippers have enough left in the tank after an emo-
tional, grueling seven-game series victory over de-
fending champion San Antonio against MVP candidate
James Harden and the Rockets.
Key Matchup 1: Paul vs. his hamstring. The Clippers'
leader had to leave Game 7 against the Spurs on Saturday
night after pulling his right hamstring. He returned to the
game and delivered a gutsy performance that included the
game-winning leaner over Tim Duncan in the closing sec-
onds. But coach Doc Rivers said he would be surprised
if Paul was available for Game 1, an injury that could
change the entire complexion of the series.
Key Matchup 2: Dwight Howard vs. DeAndre Jo r-
dan. Howard missed all four of the games against
the Clippers in the regular season due to a
knee injury. But he looked every bit of his
old dominant self in the first round series
against Dallas, averaging 16.6 points,
13.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in
36.5 minutes per game. He had his way with Mavericks veteran
Tyson Chandler, but now faces a younger version of himself in
Jordan, the Clippers' alley-oop catching, shot-blocking force.
X-Factor: Jamal Crawford. He filled in capably in Game 7
when Paul went out because of injury, scoring nine points, dish-
ing two assists and taking over the role of primary ball-handler
and playmaker. If Paul can't play or is limited, Crawford will have
to be effective for the Clippers to have a chance.
Prediction: The series likely depends on
Paul's health. If Rivers is right and it's a
significant injury, Rockets in 6.
We stern Conference Seminfinals
Clippers-Rockets Playoff Capsule
PHOTO COURTESY OF DIPPOST. COM
Blake Griffin of the Houston Rockets
PHOTO COURTESY OF THOUGHTYOUMIGHTASK
Chris Paul of the L.A . Clippers
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