He comes from the land down under. In game six of the eastern conference semifinals, Cleveland Cavaliers backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova came up big for an injured Kyrie Irving and helped the Cavaliers eliminate the Chicago Bulls 94-73. The win sends the Cavaliers to their first eastern conference finals appearance since 2009.
On a night where Irving played just 12 minutes and had to leave the game after suffering yet another injury and LeBron James struggled shooting the basketball, the pride of Australia lead the wine and gold in scoring with 19 points. Dellavedova went seven of eleven from the field, three of six from three point range. Two of the three shots from downtown came in just over a minute of play early in the fourth quarter and ended any chance of the Bulls mounting a comeback to save their season. Dellavedova logged an impressive 34 minutes in game six when his team needed him the most.
James went back to the guy he was in the first four games of this series, the one who struggled shooting the basketball. LeBron was just seven of 23 from the field and had just 15 points. James contributed in other ways as he always does. LeBron fell just a rebound short of his second triple double in the series. James had nine rebounds, eleven assists and two steals. James wasn’t able to match his turnover free game five however as he had four turnovers. James will play in the eastern conference finals for the fifth straight year and sixth time in the last seven seasons.
Irving appeared to be hurting throughout game six, but when he landed on the foot of teammate Tristan Thompson, Kyrie went right down to the floor in pain. Irving tweaked his already injured left knee and went right to the locker room. Irving would return to the bench later in the second quarter but didn’t go back into the game. Irving did connect on both of his field goal attempts, including a three pointer and went one of two from the free throw line and finished with six points to go along with a rebound and a blocked shot.
Thompson was outstanding in the series clinching game six, The Cavaliers power forward got off to a great start offensively scoring ten of his 13 points in the opening quarter. Thompson was a beast again rebounding the basketball at both ends of the floor. Thompson finished with a game high 17 rebounds, six of them on the offensive end and added two blocks.
Timofey Mozgov was very aggressive to start game six. The wine and gold’s center scored all seven of his points in the first quarter and three of his five rebounds came in the opening period. James and Irving looked to get Mozgov going early after finishing with just one point after missing all of his field attempts in game five.
Iman Shumpert stepped up again in the starting lineup at shooting guard. Shumpert in 36 minutes finished with 13 points on five of 14 shooting including a pair of three pointers. Shumpert also added seven rebounds, a blocked shot and five assists. Shumpert has made the most in his opportunity to start for head coach David Blatt throughout this series. At this point, Blatt should keep Shumpert at the starting two guard spot and continue to bring JR Smith off the bench in the eastern conference finals no matter if the Cavaliers face Washington or Atlanta.
Speaking of Smith, he stepped up big along with Dellavedova in Irving’s absence. Smith also logged 34 minutes off the bench and made some huge shots from three point country again in game six. Smith finished with 12 points on three of six shooting from three point land to go along with three of three from the free throw line. Two of Smith’s three made three pointers were in the final two minutes of the third to once again stop any chance the Bulls had of mounting a comeback like they did late in game five.
Both teams came out and shot the basketball well to open up the game. The Bulls shot 57 percent in the first quarter, the Cavaliers shot 52 percent. A late slam and foul by Tristan Thompson gave the Cavaliers the lead at 33-31 after the first quarter.
Both teams went back and forth with holding the lead early in the second quarter. The game changed in the Cavaliers favor with 5:18 remaining in the second. The Cavaliers were leading 41-40. Shumpert was driving into the lane when he is clothes lined like in a WWE wrestling match by Nikola Mirotic. The officials first issued just a common foul on the Bulls rookie power forward. After reviewing the play, Mirotic was assessed a flagrant one foul. Shumpert would make one of two free throws, but that play began a huge run for the wine and gold. The Cavaliers would finish the quarter scoring 17 of the next 20 points and take a commanding 58-44 lead at the half.
The third quarter can be summed up in one word, ugly. Neither team could make a basket. The first points of the quarter was scored by Mike Dunleavy three minutes into the quarter. Dellavedova finally got the Cavaliers into the scoring column with 6:13 remaining in the quarter. Even with the Cavaliers struggles shooting the basketball, the Bulls weren’t able to cut into the lead. Neither team reached ten points scored in the quarter until the final two minutes of the period. The Bulls would end up winning the quarter 16-15, but the Cavaliers would lead 73-60 at the end of the third.
The Cavaliers didn’t let up in the fourth quarter on Thursday night like they did in game five. Cleveland held the Bulls just 13 points the rest of the way. The Cavaliers punch their ticket to the eastern conference finals with a 94-73 victory and win the series four games to two.
Jimmy Butler lead all scorers with 20 points, Derrick Rose was the only other Bull in double figures. Rose finished with 14 points. The Cavaliers defense really stepped up in the final three quarters. After giving up 31 points in the first, the Bulls scored just 42 points the rest of the way, that’s an average of just over a point per minute. The Cavaliers scored 61 points in the final three quarters combined.
The Cavaliers now get a few days of much needed rest to get healed up for either the Washington Wizards or Atlanta Hawks in the eastern conference finals. The Hawks lead that series three games to two, Game six is Friday night at the Verizon Center in Washington. If the Wizards force a game seven, that takes place on Monday in Atlanta. The eastern conference finals are expected to begin on Wednesday in either Atlanta or at Quicken Loans Arena.