It was touch-and-go throughout part of their opening round playoffs series for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they took care of business on Tuesday night.
Cleveland ended any hope of a shocking first round upset courtesy of the Chicago Bulls, behind a 96-94 victory in Game 5, advancing to the second round by winning series 4-1.
The Cavaliers won in spite of LeBron James play through injury, nursing an elbow on his shooting arm that he endured during the game. In fact, the All-Star had to shoot a pair of free-throws left handed after he said that his right arm went numb.
Still, James was close to a triple-double, after tabbing 19 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists on the night to ensure that the Bulls would not get another opportunity at the Cavaliers.
After the game, James remarked that he can’t remember the specific instance that caused his injury, but that it was more noticeable in the second half of the game.
“It bothers me because I don’t know what it is,” James said in a post-game interview. “Hopefully it doesn’t continue to bother me. But I’m not concerned. Cleveland fans have nothing to worry about. They have no reason to panic. I don’t think it’s that serious.”
Cleveland was led by Antawn Jamison, who scored 25 points, while Shaquille O’Neal added 14, as the Cavaliers move on and will face the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals after they ousted Miami in five games.
“A lot of people are saying they’re too old, but we know they’re going to come out and give us their best shot,” said Jamison of the match up with Boston, with Game 1 beginning on Saturday.
On the other side of the court, the Bulls were led by a 31-point outing from Derrick Rose, while Luol Deng added 26.
Enough shots did not fall for the Bulls in the final minutes however, and as a result they will be watching the remainder of the playoffs from the comfort of their own homes.
While the series ended in five games, Cleveland got everything thrown at them by the Bulls despite being given virtually no chance against the Cavaliers.
The game was 93-92 with 1:32 left, before two free-throws from James sent them Cavaliers up three points.
The Bulls then pushed the ball up the court, and set up a play, but Rose was unable to connect on the jumper, with the ball falling off the rim.
James hauled in a rebound of the wayward shot by Rose and was fouled. He made the first free-throw, and shot the second with his left hand.
“I knew we were up four,” James said after the game. “I would have shot it right-handed if I had to make it. I’ve never had a problem with my elbow before.”
James now has several days to rest before taking the court against Boston.
Online Sportsbooks have Cleveland installed as the overall betting favorite to win the 2010 NBA Championship.