LeBron James’ buzzer-beating jumper from the corner lifted the Cleveland Cavaliers to an 86-84 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 of their second-round playoff series on May 10.
Just when we thought it wouldn’t get any better than this, it does.
The big takeaway here is simply this: There is nothing like NBA playoff basketball.
We were still enjoying Derrick Rose’s buzzer-beating three-pointer in Game 3 to give the Bulls a 99-96 win before James made a resounding statement of his own.
Something like, “Hey, don’t forget, I’m still a four-time MVP and two-time NBA champ.”
However, don’t expect these Bulls to just roll over and die. This is now down to a best-of-three series. With the way it’s gone so far, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if it went the full distance.
James made front-page news once again, but not too many are aware his buzzer-beating shot might never have taken place had it not been for his coach, David Blatt.
When Rose tied the game at 84 on a driving layup, Blatt almost called a timeout when in fact, his team didn’t have one anymore. NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner explains what would have happened had Blatt and Co. been charged with an excess timeout:
Video shows one ref, Scott Forster, on the far side of the floor, preparing for the Cavs to put the ball in play. The other two, Tom Washington and Jason Phillips, appear to be heading into the backcourt. And then Cleveland assistant coach Tyronn Lue can be seen grabbing Blatt.
‘Yes, I tried to call one and almost blew it,’ Blatt said. ‘Then they told me we didn’t have one.’
Conceivably, a technical free throw would have put Chicago up, 85-84, and then the Cavaliers would have had to foul, perhaps pushing the Bulls’ lead to 87-84. The pressure on James’ final shot, if he got one, would have been greater—make it or lose—and it would have had to come from three-point range.
At the very least, Bulls fans will be ruminating on Blatt’s Chris Webber moment that wasn’t.
Aschburner’s point is spot on. By his own admission, Blatt would have been the goat had the excess timeout rule been applied. If Chicago capitalized, it would have had a 3-1 series lead.
Not insurmountable, but it would have been unlikely for the Cavaliers to come back from such a deficit. Not with how Tom Thibodeau preaches defense.
Blatt just needs to thank his lucky stars the Cavaliers caught a very lucky break there.
LeBron James’ Buzzer Beater Gives Cleveland Cavaliers 86-84 Win Over Chicago Bulls in Game 4
LeBron James won Game 4 of the seond-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls on May 10 with a buzzer beater from the left corner.
Cavs.com beat writer Joe Gabriele describes the moments before LBJ’s shot over the outstretched hand of Bulls guard Jimmy Butler that knotted the series at two games apiece:
After a timeout, Nikola Mirotic blocked LeBron’s layup attempt on Cleveland’s next possession, but it appeared Mirotic knocked the ball out of bounds. With neither team having a timeout, the officials gathered to review the play—essentially giving the Wine and Gold time to draw up the final play (and adding .7 to the clock).
With now 1.5 to play in regulation, the Cavs originally drew up a play that had LeBron inbounding the ball—but James admitted postgame that he vetoed that plan, opting for the opportunity to take the final shot.
He jabbed towards the middle, then broke for the left corner. Matthew Dellevedova found the four-time MVP, who lifted and splashed home the 21-foot game-winner just before his teammates mobbed him at mid-court.
James then discussed his end-game heroics with the Cavaliers’ official website:
I’ve made big shot before in the postseason. Obviously, this one was a big one for our team. You don’t want to go down 3-1 to anyone. I was able to regain homecourt with the shot.
For me, I just don’t like letting my teammates down. I did that on a few plays late in the fourth quarter. There were a couple of offensive foul calls. I was happy I was able to make a play at the end.
The Parting Shot
LeBron James’ buzzer beater not only evened the series against the Chicago Bulls, it served notice this series is the most exciting among the four second-round playoff series.
Kyrie Irving vs. Derrick Rose.
LeBron James vs. the entire Bulls defense.
David Blatt vs. Tom Thibodeau.
The second seed vs. the third seed.
Two straight buzzer-beating games.
It certainly doesn’t get any better than this. After all, this is what we expected from the top two teams in the Central Division. Expect the drama and tension to escalate, even without injured stars Kevin Love of the Cavaliers and Pau Gasol of the Bulls.
James’ shot on Sunday certainly looked like payback for Michael Jordan’s buzzer beater against Craig Ehlo in The Coliseum at Richfield 26 years ago. The only difference was Jordan’s free-throw-line jumper eliminated the Cavs, while James’ merely evened the series against the Bulls.
With this, Bulls center Joakim Noah told The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson on May 10 he and his teammates remain unfazed despite LBJ’s dagger of a shot.
“We’re fine,” Noah told Johnson. “They hit a tough shot at the end. Move on from it. We’re disappointed that we didn’t get the win. We can win in Cleveland. We’ve done it before. It’s going to be great.”
What we’re sure about is this: Game 5’s outcome will determine if the Bulls can overcome that sting of a defeat or if the Cavaliers can seize momentum.