Funny thing, though.
“We stayed strong,” said Chicago’s Joakim Noah(notes), who fought through foul trouble to finish with 15 rebounds. “D-Rose played huge for us. It just feels really good to come out with a win right now.”
James scored 13 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter but also committed some turnovers down the stretch. Even so, the Cavaliers were within 107-106 after Mo Williams(notes) nailed a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left. They immediately fouled Luol Deng(notes), who hit the first free throw but missed the second.
They will try to tie the best-of-seven series on Sunday.
Hinrich, a career 80.9 percent foul shooter, missed two with 26 seconds left and the Bulls up 104-99.
James then buried a 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to make it a two-point game. The Cavaliers immediately fouled Rose, who missed the first free throw before converting the second to make it 105-102 with 10.1 seconds left.
Chicago fouled Anderson Varejao(notes) to prevent a 3-point attempt, and he made the first but missed the second. Brad Miller(notes) got the rebound and converted both foul shots to make it a four-point game, and the Bulls hung on for a wild win.
Rose was serenaded by that “MVP!” chant late in the third quarter and was guarded down the stretch by the player who figures to win the award. That didn’t shake him, but the chorus did, though.
“I almost passed out,” Rose said. “Hopefully one day, but I’m just worried about winning games right now.”
So is James, who said he made the call to take Rose down the stretch.
The Bulls appeared to be in good shape up 21 in the third, only to see the Cavaliers cut it all the way to 94-92 on a pair of free throws and a layup by Jamison with 4:10 remaining in the game.
Deng, who scored 20, then made a jumper and Noah stole a pass from James. That led to a jumper by Rose, who then buried a fadeaway as the crowd chanted “Let’s go Bulls!” to make it 100-92 with 2:42 remaining.
James charged into Deng with 1:18 remaining and the Bulls up by six, then got stripped by Noah. Deng picked up the loose ball and Hinrich hit two free throws to make it 104-96 with 38 seconds remaining.
About that charge, James didn’t agree with the call.
“I saw him backpedaling,” James said. “Me as a driver, I’m watching the defender’s feet. I’m seeing if he’s stationed or is still moving. To me, I felt like he was still backpedaling, and as soon as I saw him backpedaling, that’s when I decided to take off. They called a charge. I haven’t seen the replay, but I know exactly what I’ve seen on the court with the defender right in front of me.”
Noah said he was particularly concerned Deng would get whistled after seeing James’ shot go in.
“I think one of the refs was about to call a block and then he looked at the other ref because he wasn’t sure, and the other ref—thank God—called a charge,” Noah said. “That was a huge play for us. I’m really happy that play went our way. I think I’m kind of biased, but to me, I thought it was a charge the whole time.”
As for his five fouls?
“Stupid, stupid fouls,” said Noah, who collected several going for offensive rebounds.
Still, at times the Bulls looked as if they might run away with this one.
They were leading 39-23 early in the second after a three-point play by Deng, and they finished the half with a flourish after Cleveland pulled within seven.
Miller hit a 19-footer with a minute left and Hinrich nailed 20-footer from the wing to make it 56-45 before Noah blocked a driving layup by James in the closing seconds. The Bulls continued to pour it on in the third.
“I believe we’re going to be fine,” Varejao said. “We just have to play the way we did in the second half.”
NOTES: Cavaliers G Delonte West’s(notes) trial on weapons charges has been postponed until July 21, meaning he won’t miss any playoff time. Authorities say West was carrying two loaded handguns, a loaded shotgun and an 8 1/2-inch Bowie knife while riding a three-wheel motorcycle on the Capital Beltway in Maryland in September. Police say he was pulled over after cutting off an officer. … Ron Howard(notes) got a loud ovation when he was shown midway through the second quarter.