The Cavaliers tried a multitude defensive plays throughout the game, but Spaniard Pau Gasol was constantly left open, making 10 of his 16 field goals attempts to finish with 21 point, 10 rebounds and four assist to help the Bulls open their second-round of the playoffs series with a 99-92 victory.
The Cavaliers never led, Chicago controlled the entire contest, leading by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, and former MVP Derrick Rose and Jimmy Buttler followed Gasol with 20 and 25 points, respectively.
Gasol insisted the Bull won because they kept their poise. “We came in with the right mind set and attitude. We went after it.”
“No excuses. We just did not start well enough, and just didn’t play well enough to win that game,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt says after the game.
While, four-time MVP LeBron James kept struggling offensively, making six out Cleveland’s nine turnovers, Gasol has played arguably one of the best games since joined the Bull from the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason.
Although James finished with 19 points, he too feels Game 1 was not theirs.
And the eight days of rest after sweeping the Boston Celtics last week, combined with the absences of Kevin Love and JR Smith became too difficult to handle.
“Obviously Pau [Gasol] is a great mid range shooter, that we found out tonight, and he made us pay,” James.
“I have to be better. I wasn’t that good tonight. This game is something we can learn from, which we will, and we’ll come with better game plan in Game 2.
Kirie Irving finished with a game-high 30 points, Iman Shumpert added 22, but Gasol was the difference maker.
“His versatility is a great strength, Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said of Gasol.
“Pau is probably the skilled big man that you find in this league. He can score in a lot of different ways, is very effective in pick-and-roll, play in the post, he can catch-and-shoot, he can put [the ball] on floor, and he is very unselfish. Those are some of the things that make him so hard to guard.”
Chicago lead the series 1-0, Game 2 is Thursday morning in Cleveland.
In Houston, the question of the day was ‘how could the Los Angeles Clippers cope without their premier point guard Chris Paul, who sat out due to a left hamstring?.’
But, it soon became clear the Clippers, who had only 48 hours to prepare to face the Rockets after eliminating the defending champions in Game 7, were ready to go with or without Paul, beating Houston 117-101.
And, Blake Griffin made sure to take over the leading role, recording his third double-double of the postseason, with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists to help the Clippers take a 1-0 lead of their Western Conference semifinals.
Austin Rivers, who started for Paul, contributed 17 points in the winning cause.
“We just tried to make sure to share the ball. Credit to tho way we played. We are not going to rest, there is three more games to play,” Griffin said afterwards.
Meanwhile, it was a sloppy game with Clippers turning ball over 21 times, and Houston following suit with 23.
Dwight Howard led the way for the Rockets with 22 points, and Howard, who played his first game of the season against the Clippers, finished with 20.
“Coming off a Game 7 they were full of energy. I am confident we’ll do a better job in Game 2. We’ll make sure to find the open man and knock down shots,” Harden said in the post-game press conference.
Game 2 between the Clippers and Rockets is on Thursday morning at Toyota Centre in Houston.