The Chicago Bulls came in oozing with confidence, unafraid of LeBron James and convinced they could keep their playoff momentum rolling. Derrick Rose made sure they did.
Rose scored 25 points and Pau Gasol added 21 as the Bulls led from the start in a 99-92 victory over the shorthanded Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Cleveland last night.
Rose, who suffered a shoulder stinger in the closing minute, helped the Bulls swipe home-court advantage from the Cavs. Cleveland was missing starters Kevin Love (shoulder surgery) and J.R. Smith (suspension), but its bigger issue was not stopping Rose or his pick-and-roll plays with Gasol.
Rose, who has missed more than 180 games the past four seasons, is savoring every moment back in the postseason. "I just appreciate everything," he said, "getting back on the floor and just every aspect of basketball."
Jimmy Butler had 20 points for the Bulls. Kyrie Irving scored 30 points and James had 19 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for Cleveland. "No excuses," coach David Blatt said.
James didn't offer any. "We all just have to play better," said James, who had six turnovers. "I wasn't that good tonight."
Clippers 117, Rockets 101: Blake Griffin had his second straight triple-double with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists, Jamal added 21 points and Matt Barnes had 20 as Los Angeles won Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal in Houston. Barnes said of Griffin, "He's incredible. He gets in the middle of the field and kind of just picks people apart like Tom Brady. That's like a grown man triple-double right there."
Chris Paul was sidelined with a strained left hamstring. Coach Doc Rivers said he could have played if it were an elimination game but that it wasn't worth the risk in Game 1. Austin Rivers, the coach's son, started and scored 17 points.
"Without Chris, everybody has to step up," Griffin said. "But it's not one person's job, it's everybody's job. And if you look at the stat sheet tonight, it was everybody."
Dwight Howard had 22 points and 10 rebounds and James Harden added 20 points and 12 assists for Houston.-- AP