The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Chicago Bulls, 94-73, to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals on May 14.
The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Chicago Bulls, 94-73, in Game 6 of their NBA Eastern Conference second-round playoff series on May 14.
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The Cavaliers won the series, 4-2, despite LeBron James scoring just 15 points on 7-of-23 shooting at the Bulls' United Center on Thursday. However, he did finish with a near-triple double with nine rebounds and 11 assists. Cleveland moves on to its first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals since 2009, per The Northeast Ohio Media Group's Chris Haynes.
Australian guard Matthew Dellavedova led the Cavaliers with 19 points, per The Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Haynes stresses the Cavaliers didn't want a return trip to Quicken Loans Arena for Game 7. Their mindset from the get-go was to finish this series on the Bulls' homecourt.
"We want Game 6, not Game 7," power forward Tristan Thompson (13 points, 17 rebounds) told Haynes after the game. "That's how we see it. We're in the moment."
Cleveland also survived a scare in the second period.
Already without forward Kevin Love, the Cavaliers witnessed All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving step Thompson's foot. Irving came up hobbling and had to go to the locker room, per The Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Haynes confirms Irving, who also has a right foot strain, has "re-aggravated his left knee," which currently has tendinitis. He did not return to the game and finished with six points in 12 minutes of action.
The physical nature of the series continued when Chicago rookie forward Nikola Mirotic clotheslined Cleveland guard Iman Shumpert as he drove to the basket in the second period. Shumpert's Cavaliers teammates had to restrain him from going after Mirotic, per Haynes.
The officials gave Mirotic a Flagrant 1 for the foul on Shumpert, who scored nine points in a 17-4 spurt that broke the game wide open, per The Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Haynes stresses the Cleveland bench came through in Game 6. J.R. Smith had 12 points and eight rebounds while James Jones had three triples for the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers' second stringers outscored the Bulls', 40-20, per ESPN stats.
Jimmy Butler led Chicago with 20 points while Derrick Rose chipped in with 14 points. Bulls forward Pau Gasol, who missed the previous two games with a strained left hamstring, contributed eight points and five rebounds in 24 minutes of action, per The Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Haynes says Cleveland now awaits the winner of the Atlanta Hawks vs. Washington Wizards series which the former currently leads, 3-2.
In a related development, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau told ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell after the game he expects to return next season amid rumors which say otherwise.
"Until they tell me I'm not (the coach), I expect to be here," Thibodeau told Friedell. "So that's the way I'm approaching it."
Thibodeau's statement comes in the wake of NBA coaching sources telling ESPN's Marc Stein (via ESPN Chicago) the Bulls head coach and the New Orleans Pelicans have developed a mutual interest in the Pelicans' vacant coaching position after they fired Monty Williams this week.
Should Thibodeau somehow leave the Bulls, he does so with two years and nearly $9 million left on his contract. If Chicago management decides to part ways with him, it would most possibly seek compensation by way of a draft pick, per Friedell.
Sources tell ESPN Chicago the Bulls are eyeing Iowa State Cyclones head men's basketball coach Fred Hoiberg to replace Thibodeau in the event the latter decides to leave. However, Friedell says luring Hoiberg away from his current position "could prove difficult."
Hoiberg suited up for the Bulls from 1999-2003.
Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP, told Friedell on Thursday he's hoping Thibodeau comes back:
"Yeah, for sure. Thibs, we grew a bond together. With him (being an assistant coach) on USA Basketball. Him coming out to L.A. to check up on me after my surgeries when I was working out out there.
"I think we really have a bond so it's not up to my decision. I loved him as a coach."
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