With the "Big Three" reduced to the "Banged-Up Two," LeBron James again showed why he's Cleveland's one and only.
James scored 38 points, Kyrie Irving had 25 and the Cavaliers held off Chicago's charge in the fourth quarter for a 106-101 victory over the Bulls on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in their testy Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Showing no ill effects from a sprained left ankle, James collected 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks and didn't have a turnover in 41 minutes to ensure the Cavs will again play at home this season. The four-time league MVP was locked in from the start, imposing his will on a game the Cavaliers had to have.
"I commend him for putting us on his back," Irving said.
Cleveland can wrap up the best-of-seven series and advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 with a win in Game 6 on Thursday night at United Center in Chicago, where the teams exchanged buzzer-beating victories last weekend.
The drama wasn't quite as high in Game 5, but it was close and it was intense.
Jimmy Butler scored 29 point and Mike Dunleavy 19 for Chicago. Derrick Rose scored 16, 12 in the first quarter, but the star guard shot just two for 15 in the final three quarters and aggravated a shoulder "stinger" he sustained in Game 1.
Fueled by an altercation that led to the ejection of Chicago's Taj Gibson, the Cavaliers led, 90-73, with 6:09 left and then had to hold off a furious comeback by the Bulls, who got within 101-99 on Butler's three-pointer with 1:18 left.
Cleveland, though, got a huge offensive rebound by Iman Shumpert before Irving, playing with surprising speed and agility on a sprained right foot and sore left knee, made four free throws in the final 17 seconds.
James, though, was the difference. After a few un-LeBron-like performances in which he was sloppy with the ball, James had his first turnover-free game this season.
"Yay!" he joked, feigning surprise. "No turnovers! That was the first stat I was looking at after the game. I was trying to be efficient for my teammates and I was very efficient."
The Bulls were missing big man Pau Gasol, who sat out his second straight game because of a strained left hamstring and didn't sound confident before Game 5 that he'd be ready by Thursday.
They also played the final 10:25 without Gibson, ejected for kicking Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova. Gibson shoved Dellavedova to the floor and then kicked the scrappy backup, who angered the Bulls forward by clamping his legs around Gibson's. Players on both teams exchanged shoves and pushes before the officials got things under control.
Gibson could be facing further discipline from the league, and Dellavedova, too, might get penalized for his role.
"I was surprised [to be ejected]," Gibson said. "I really just tried to release my foot because as soon as I got up off the ground, I just felt somebody tugging on my leg."