Derrick Rose banked in a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded, giving the Chicago Bulls a 99-96 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers and a 2-1 series lead in their Eastern Conference semi-final.
Rose, a former league MVP, tallied 30 points with seven assists and seven rebounds while producing more than his share of highlights for the Bulls.
“When I released the ball I felt like it was a good shot,” said Rose of the game winner. “I feel very confident in my game and being able to make those shots. It comes with the territory of being a leader.”
In the late NBA game Friday, Austin Rivers came off the bench to finish with 25 points and six rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers also took a 2-1 series lead with a 124-99 rout of the Houston Rockets.
With the game tied 96-96 after Cleveland’s J.R. Smith hit a shot from beyond the arc, Rose was being closely guarded at midcourt by LeBron James as the ball rolled out of bounds with three seconds to play.
Chicago took a timeout, then went back to Rose out of the huddle. Rose received the inbounds pass and dribbled hard to the right before pulling up from 26 feet with Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson chasing him.
It was Rose’s first three-pointer of the game and his first-career playoff buzzer beater. The basket kicked off a wild celebration on the court as Rose was mobbed by his teammates.
– ‘Greatness’ –
“That was his greatness to get the shot off,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
Jimmy Butler scored 20 points for the Bulls as Rose and Butler combined for 23 of the 25 Chicago points in the final quarter. Butler was named the league’s Most Improved Player on Thursday.
Chicago held a pair of five-point leads in the fourth. Both times, Smith hit three pointers to cap a mini Cleveland surge and tie the contest. He did it again with 10.8 seconds left to make it 96-96.
James struggled from the floor, finishing eight-for-25 overall and one-of-seven from three-point range.
Despite his difficulties, James still carried the Cavs offensively, finishing with 27 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds in the loss. He didn’t get much help from his teammates as no other Cleveland player scored more than 14 points.
“My guys played their hearts out,” said Cavs coach David Blatt. “It was a hard-played game, on the part of both teams. Physical but not dirty.”
In Los Angeles, Rivers scored 18 points during a 23-0 surge which began late in the third quarter and carried into the fourth.
It began with a Rivers three-pointer after Corey Brewer nailed a three to pull the Rockets within 81-76 at the 3:50 mark in the third.
Rivers also drained a pair of three-point plays to close the third quarter.
He capped the 23-0 surge with another triple in the fourth to give Los Angeles a commanding 104-76 lead, and they cruised from there.
Chris Paul returned to the Clippers’ lineup but played reduced minutes because of his hamstring injury. He finished with 12 points and seven assists in just over 23 minutes of action.