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Cavaliers-Bulls, Game Two: Why Charles Barkley Knew Cleveland Would Beat Chicago

Tom DelamaterAnalyst IApril 20, 2010

CLEVELAND - APRIL 17:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks to get a shot off over Luol Deng #9 of the Chicago Bulls in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 17, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won the game 96-83 to take a 1-0 series lead. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

At halftime of Tuesday’s playoff game between Cleveland and Chicago, the Cavaliers held a slim 52-50 lead.

The upstart Bulls looked to be in a perfect position, gaining momentum as the first half drew to a close.

TNT’s Charles Barkley, however, spoke as if a Cleveland victory was an afterthought. “Chicago’s not going to win this game,” he said matter-of-factly, during the network's Halftime Report.

He was right, even though the third quarter was as dicey for Cleveland as the first two. After three periods, the game was tied, 77-77.

Then, as they’ve done so many times this year, the Cavs methodically claimed a 112-102 triumph and a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.

What did Barkley know? What enabled Cleveland to secure the game down the stretch and pull out the win?

Two things: depth and experience.

We’ve talked about it here before. In the playoffs, especially, depth can make all the difference.

In this case, it arrived in the person of Jamario Moon.

As the fourth quarter began, LeBron James watched from the bench as the Cavs gained their first comfortable margin of the second half.

A crafty drive to the basket by Antawn Jamison, followed by a three-point play by Delonte West, gave Cleveland an 82-77 lead with 10:30 remaining.

The Cavs would not surrender the lead after that.

After Chicago pulled back within two on their next two possessions, Moon, in the game for James, hit the first of three three-pointers he would make down the stretch.

When James returned to the floor, Jamison sat down and Moon remained. He added a spectacular block of a Noah shot, followed by another three-pointer that stretched the Cavaliers' lead to six with 5:40 remaining.

That’s when James took over, tallying 15 of his game-high 40 points in crunch time as Cleveland emphatically put the game away.

Remarkably, they did it without O’Neal, Jamison, or Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the floor.

They did it with a little too much James required—but also with their depth, as supersubs West and Anderson Varejao joined Moon in holding off the Bulls’ surge.

It took every bit of it, too. The Bulls played an outstanding game for three-and-a-half quarters. They simply didn’t have what it took to maintain a lead and put the game away.

Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, and Luol Deng were sensational for Chicago, but they needed, as TNT’s Kenny Smith said after the game, one more scorer.

Noah had a career playoff-best of 25 points and 13 rebounds, while Rose added 23 points and Deng had 20.

Meanwhile, Moon unexpectedly contributed 12 points, matching Mo Williams’ total and falling just two behind Jamison’s 14.

So the series heads to Chicago for Game Two, and Barkley was proven right—as he so often is in the postseason, particularly about Cleveland.

That could be an ominous sign for the Cavaliers, too. After the game, Barkley was just as forthright with his observation that the Cavs can’t afford to fall into their old bad habit of watching James do his thing.

“The Cavaliers have got to do a better job of diversifying their offense,” he said. “You’re not going to beat the best teams in the NBA going one-on-five.”

Yes, Barkley predicted Cleveland would defeat Chicago in Game Two.

He also offered a fair warning about what the results will be if they keep playing the way they did Monday night.

Listen up, Cavs. You got away with this one, but Sir Charles has spoken.

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