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Chicago Bulls control LeBron James in overtime win
Somewhere, Craig Ehlo is wincing out of reflex. Longtime former Cavaliers coach Lenny Wilkens must be wearing a pained expression. And Gerald Wilkins, another famous victim, surely just grimaced.
Granted, the Bulls' 102-93 overtime victory Thursday night at the United Center won't rank with the classic moments from this long-standing rivalry.
But beyond a quality victory against the team with the league's best record, the Bulls also foiled the Cavaliers' attempt to post the franchise's best start after 37 games.
As it stands, the Cavaliers' 30-7 mark merely will tie the 1988-89 team's record, which eventually produced a 57-25 season and, of course, the first-round playoff loss when Michael Jordan dropped his famous buzzer-beater over Ehlo.
Derrick Rose's drive and conventional three-point play with 4 minutes 8 seconds left in overtime wasn't nearly as dramatic.
But it kick-started a 12-1 run followed by three-pointers from Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng and then Deng again.
Deng's second straight three-pointer from the corner hit the back of the rim, bounced high in the air and dropped, producing a bemused look from Deng reminiscent of Jordan's famous shrug in the 1992 NBA Finals.
"You calling that luck?" Deng said, jokingly.
Anyone who watched would call the Bulls' defense on LeBron James skill. Or at least hustle and work.
James finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, but he missed a 21-footer that Deng contested at the regulation buzzer and 13 straight second-half field goals before a meaningless three-pointer with 67 seconds left in overtime. He also had eight turnovers.
"I thought we contested him well," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We met him at the rim with Tyrus [Thomas] and gave him a lot of looks.
"Before the game, I was hoping [Commissioner] David Stern would change the rules and we could throw 10 guys at him. But that didn't happen. So we got a hand up, we double-teamed him, we switched on him, we trapped him, we forced him to his left, to his right."
James missed all six of his fourth-quarter shots for the Cavs, who also lost Delonte West to a fractured right wrist in the first quarter.
"This was my worst game of the season," James said. "I was sick, and when I get sick I miss layups and putbacks. It's tough out there when you can't breathe. But they did a good job defensively on me."
Deng's 22 points led the Bulls. They also got 16 points and six assists from Rose and 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks from an active Thomas.
In regulation, Rose pulled the Bulls within 87-85 with a driving layup but, following a James miss, he bricked two free throws with 1:32 to play that could have pulled the Bulls even.
After Thomas missed an open elbow jumper, James got tied up by Deng for a jump ball with 33.2 seconds left. James won the tip but, with the shot clock winding down, lost the ball as he slipped on a wet spot on the court.
Rose then drew a foul from Williams and made both free throws to tie the game with 17.1 seconds left.
"This makes us feel good," Rose said. "But we can't be happy and satisfied off this. We need to build a streak."