As injuries pile up on both sides, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls look to break a 2-2 series tie in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavs are dealing with injuries to their two top scorers, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, but their spirits are running high after James nailed a buzzer beater and knotted the series with an 86-84 victory in Game 4.
James badly turned his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4, but he powered through with 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. However, Irving has been coping with a litany of problems. An MRI revealed the young point guard has tendinitis in his left knee, on top of the right-foot strain Irving suffered in the first round against Boston.
The 23-year-old has trudged on, averaging 39.3 minutes in the second round, but his scoring has dropped off in the last three games. After lighting up the Bulls for 30 points in Game 1, Irving has shot a combined 8-for-32 in the last three games. He’s still expected to play in Game 5, with Cavs head coach David Blatt saying the team needs Irving even if he isn’t 100 percent.
"We are better with him at whatever percent you want to call him than we would be without him, no question," Blatt said to The Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
James said Monday that is ankle is “OK.” Though he was hobbled immediately after a collision with Derrick Rose, James continued playing.
Meanwhile, swingman Iman Shumpert continues to deal with a groin injury.
The Bulls will also limp into Game 5 with center Pau Gasol’s status unclear. The veteran big man sat out Game 4 after suffering a hamstring injury in Chicago’s 99-96 Game 3 victory.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Gasol’s been inactive ever since the injury occurred, and didn’t participate in Monday's practice.
‘‘Day-to-day . . . I don’t know,’’ head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters about Gasol's status.
With Gasol out, the rest of the Bulls starting backcourt of forwards Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy, and center Joakim Noah combined for 18 points on 7-for-26 shooting in Game 4.
The poor play upfront, with Noah making up some ground with a game-high 15 rebounds, was the main culprit in Chicago shooting 36 percent from the field without Gasol inside to test Cleveland’s interior defense.
In Gasol's absence, Cleveland center Timofey Mozgov dominated the paint for 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, nearly recording his second double-double of these playoffs.
Though Chicago did received a second-straight 30-plus point outburst from point guard Derrick Rose. Now averaging 21.4 points and 6.5 assists during the postseason, Rose looked like his old-self with 31 points on 11-for-23 shooting in Game 4.
Shooting guard Jimmy Butler struggled from the field, shooting 8-for-21 from the field. He is shooting just under 40 percent from the field in the series, but averaging 19.3 points.
Start Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Live Online Stream: TNT Overtime
Betting Odds: Cleveland -5.5
Over/Under: 191 points
Prediction: Chicago over Cleveland, 92-88