NBA: Bulls hang on to beat Cavaliers 108-106
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO — Derrick Rose heard the "MVP! MVP!" chants and thought he would faint, the loud chorus rattling the All-Star point guard.
Funny thing, though.
Being guarded by LeBron James late in the game didn't faze him. And now, the Cleveland Cavaliers can forget about sweeping the Bulls out of the playoffs.
Rose scored 31 points, Kirk Hinrich added 27 and Chicago hung to beat the top-seeded Cavaliers 108-106 Thursday night in Game 3 of a first-round series after its 21-point lead dwindled to one.
"We stayed strong," said Chicago's Joakim Noah, 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 nailed a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left. They immediately fouled Luol Deng, who hit the first free throw but missed the second.
Cleveland's Anthony Parker got the rebound and raced up the right side but missed a 3 at the buzzer, and the Bulls escaped with the win despite some shaky foul shooting late in the game.
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 to prevent a 3-point attempt, and he made the first but missed the second. Brad Miller got the rebound and converted both foul shots to make it a four-point game, and the Bulls hung on for a wild win.
"They kept us on our heels and we can ill afford to let that happen," said Antawn Jamison, who scored 19.
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.
Taj Gibson started it with a jumper and capped the run with another one, making it 68-47 with 7:37 left in the third, before the Cavaliers scored 13 straight.
"I believe we're going to be fine," Varejao said. "We just have to play the way we did in the second half."