Ducks stun Hawks 5-4 in OT for 3-2 series lead

 

ANAHEIM—Matt Beleskey scored 45 seconds into overtime, and the Anaheim Ducks beat the Blackhawks 5-4 on Monday night in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.Jonathan Toews scored two stunning goals in 72 seconds late in regulation to force overtime, but Beleskey barreled into the crease and scored on a rebound of Ryan Kesler’s shot, flying through the air in celebration.Kesler and Sami Vatanen had a goal and an assist apiece for the Ducks, who moved to the brink of their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals since 2007.The Blackhawks had won four overtime games already in this postseason and had all the momentum heading to OT this time – until Beleskey swooped in.Game 6 is Wednesday at the United Center.

Vermette scores game winner as Hawks win in 2OT to tie Western Conference Finals 2-2

 

Antoine Vermette turned a huge disappointment into a moment of pure joy. That is how it goes for the Blackhawks when the playoffs go to overtime.Vermette scored at 5:37 of the second extra session, and the Blackhawks beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-4 on Saturday night to tie the Western Conference finals at two games apiece.

“I’m glad he finished it for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That was a huge goal for us. Huge, goal, huge.”

For the second time, the Hawks put the pressure squarely on Anaheim to prove it can withstand the gutshot of losing a game it deserved to win.Antoine Vermette proves himself with winning goal for Blackhawks. Antoine Vermette kept mostly quiet after he was a healthy scratch in Game 3, and his play did the talking in Game 4 as he returned to net the winner.The Ducks’ third-period flurry would’ve doomed many teams with a lesser pedigree, but the Blackhawks hung in, answered and finally prevailed in Game 4.Vermette, who said he was surprised and disappointed when he was left out of the lineup for the Hawks 2-1 loss in Game 3, was stopped on his first try in front but stayed with the rebound and shot it over Frederik Andersen for his second goal of the playoffs. He then skated over to the corner and was mobbed by his teammates as the season-high crowd of 22,404 cheered wildly.Vermette worked out at the United Center during the Blackhawks’ first home playoff loss Thursday night. He wanted to stay ready if he got back in the lineup — and he made the most of another opportunity.

“At this time of the year, you don’t want to make an individual or a personal story,” said Vermette, acquired from Arizona at the trade deadline. “The main focus is about the team’s success. That’s all that matters. I’m glad we won tonight.”

Game 5 is Monday night in Anaheim.Brandon Saad had a goal and two assists for the Hawks, and captain Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist. Patrick Kane scored for the second straight game, and Corey Crawford finished with 47 saves — helping the Blackhawks stay alive when the Ducks had a big push in the first extra session.Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry and Matt Beleskey scored for Anaheim in a 37-second stretch of the third, and Andersen had 35 saves. Emerson Etem also scored.

“We always talk about highs and lows in the playoffs and we learn and move on,” Perry said. “It’s one game. We still have home-ice advantage. We were right there.”

Anaheim also lost to the Hawks in triple overtime in Game 2. The Blackhawks are 4-0 in overtime in the playoffs, becoming the first team to win four multiple-overtime games in the same postseason.

“We have that experience,” Kane said. “We’ve been in these situations before. We’re accustomed to playing in these types of games, whether it’s going to overtime or tight games. We try to stay calm and do whatever we can to get the next one.”

Etem’s third goal of the playoffs tied it at one late in the second, setting the stage for a wild finish to regulation.Toews’ wrist shot over a prone Andersen got the lead back for the Hawks at 2:38, and Brent Seabrook made it 3-1 on a big slap shot five minutes later. It was the first goal of the conference finals for Toews, who has been wrestling with Kesler all over the ice for most of the series.The Ducks responded with a frenzied rally, silencing the big crowd. First, Kesler beat Crawford for his fifth goal of the playoffs at 8:42, and then Beleskey used Blackhawks defenseman Kimmo Timonen as a screen for perfectly placed wrister that tied it at three. Perry capped the dazzling stretch with a rebound score for Anaheim’s first lead at 9:19.

“It was a good sign for this team,” center Andrew Cogliano said. “We didn’t give up. We battled back and got the goals that we needed to, but ultimately, they won and the series is tied.”

The three goals in 37 seconds were the second-fastest three playoff goals scored by one team in NHL history. Toronto scored three times in 23 seconds against the Atlanta Flames on April 12, 1979, with Quenneville assisting on the final goal in that stretch for the Maple Leafs.And there was still one more goal to go in the third.The only penalty of the period was a holding whistle on Ducks winger Jakob Silfverberg, and the Hawks turned it into Kane’s tying score at 12:39. Kane slid Richards’ pass underneath Andersen, and the goaltender’s momentum helped carry the puck just past the goal line.

“When they came back, we kept playing,” Crawford said.

The Hawks turned a big break into the lead in the first period.With Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook in the box for slashing, Saad got the puck along the boards in his defensive zone. Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin then got tangled up with referee Chris Rooney, and Saad took off for a breakaway.Kesler made one last try to break up the rush, but Saad deftly knocked his stick away before beating Andersen into the upper right corner with 47 seconds left. It was Saad’s first goal since Game 1 of the second round against Minnesota.

NOTES—Teuvo Teravainen also returned to the lineup after he was scratched for Game 3. … Beauchemin got his 27th career playoff assist on Etem’s goal, passing Scott Niedermayer for the top spot on the franchise list for defensemen. … Former major league slugger Paul Konerko, who had his No. 14 retired by the White Sox earlier in the day, and new Bears coach John Fox attended the game.

Tired Ducks edge even more exhausted Hawks 2-1.

 

Frederik Andersen made 27 saves, helping Anaheim kill off five power plays, and the Ducks beat the Blackhawks 2-1 on Thursday night for a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.Defenseman Simon Despres scored his first career playoff goal in the second period as top-seeded Anaheim bounced back quite nicely from a triple-overtime loss at home in Game 2. Patrick Maroon had a power-play goal and Ryan Getzlaf added two assists.Ryan Kesler’s two holding penalties contributed to more than nine power-play minutes for the Blackhawks, but the Ducks’ penalty killers kept most of the Hawk’s opportunities to the outside and Andersen stood his ground during a couple of goalmouth scrums.Patrick Kane scored his eighth playoff goal for Chicago, and Corey Crawford made 25 saves.Game 4 is Saturday night in the United Center.

Kruger ends longest game in Hawks history, Series with Ducks tied 1-1

  ANAHEIM—The Blackhawks tried just about everything to get a puck past Frederik Andersen while Game 2 of the Western Conference finals wound through three overtime periods and deep into the night, eventually becoming the longest game in the Hawks 89-year history.Andrew Shaw even headed the puck into the net — which was amazing, but illegal.After nearly 110 consecutive scoreless minutes by the Hawks, Marcus Kruger got it done with plain old work in front of the net, ending a landmark game and evening a series that’s already the endurance test everyone expected.Kruger batted home Brent Seabrook‘s shot 16:12 into the third OT, and the Blackhawks earned a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 on Tuesday night.

“I got lucky,” Kruger said. “Happy to see that go in.”

Shaw and Marian Hossa scored power-play goals in the opening minutes, but the Hawks couldn’t score again in the longest game in Honda Center history until Kruger got in front and forced a ricochet past Andersen, who made a career-high 53 saves.The Blackhawks celebrated with more relief than excitement, realizing they only had about 42 hours until the puck drops for Game 3 in the United Center 7pm on Thursday.

“I just hope we don’t have any more like that,” Shaw said. “I think this helps us, and showed us what can happen if we keep sticking to it and competing. We’ll find a way to win.”

Corey Crawford made 60 saves as the Blackhawks finally handed the Ducks their second loss of the postseason.The game was the 17th-longest in NHL history, and the longest since Dallas and San Jose went four overtimes on May 4, 2008.Shaw attempted to end it during a power play 8:47 into the second overtime by knocking a high-arching rebound of Patrick Kane‘s shot into the net with his helmet in a stunning soccer-style play, but the goal was illegal. The officials briefly conferred before waving it off — NHL rules prohibit players from deliberately knocking the puck into the net with anything except their sticks.

“It was just a reaction right there,” Shaw said. “You do whatever you can to get that puck across the line. But we just kept working and competing, and we got lucky.

Overtime goals are huge, so I tried to sell it as much as I could. It was just exciting, the reaction at the net. I was just out there using my head, I guess.” Corey Perry tied it late in the second period for the Ducks, who dropped to 9-2 in the postseason with their first home loss in seven games, missing numerous chances to end it. Andrew Cogliano also scored for Anaheim, which was shut out over the final 78:42.

“There were a few posts, a few crossbars,” Perry said. “It’s a tough one to swallow, but you get right back at it, put it behind you and get ready for the next one.”

These Western powers came into the series with ample rest after easily winning their second-round series, but they used up much of that extra energy in a marathon Game 2.Anaheim hadn’t played a game with multiple overtimes since May 3, 2009, while the Hawks won two multiple-overtime games in the first round against Nashville. The game was the second longest in Ducks history, trailing only a five-overtime game at Dallas in 2003.Two days after Anaheim comfortably won the series opener to improve to 6-0 at Honda Center in the postseason, Kruger’s fortunate goal ended a nail-biting rematch.

“You just try to limit the mistakes as much as possible,” Cogliano said. “You’re drained. I think both game plans on both teams get a little lax because you’re out there for so long. Physically, it’s tough. Guys cramp. You’re out there for so long, going through so many hits, and the game is so fast-paced, especially against this team. It’s a tough pill to swallow right now, but you’ve just got to get over it. We’ve got to recover.”

Perry put a shot off the crossbar roughly 10 minutes into the first OT, and Sami Vatanen hit the posts behind Crawford twice in extra time. Andersen made two enormous saves early in the second overtime, and Crawford matched him with a handful of stunners late in the period.The Blackhawks never led in Game 1 while struggling to match the Ducks’ depth and going scoreless on three power plays. The Hawks kept their bench short in Game 2, largely playing only four defensemen — Duncan Keith logged just under 50 minutes of ice time, while Niklas Hjalmarsson and Seabrook both topped 47 minutes — and relying on its top-end talent.In the end, Kruger came up with his second goal of the postseason.The Blackhawks capitalized twice in the opening 6:19 after poor penalties by the Ducks. Shaw and Hossa both scored their second goal in three games after nine-game droughts to open the postseason.Anaheim played a dominant second period, outshooting the Blackhawks 17-1 in the final 13 minutes. Perry finally evened it late, deflecting a long shot from captain Ryan Getzlaf for his eighth goal in 11 games.

NOTES—The Ducks had played into triple overtime four previous times, but all were on the road. … It was the 50th triple-overtime game in NHL playoff history. …The Hawks made one lineup change, scratching David Rundblad in favor of Kyle Cumiskey, who appeared in his first NHL postseason game since 2010.

Hawks unable to put the puck past Andersen, lose opener to Ducks 4-1

 

Frederick Andersen lunged forward and stretched out his stick, taking a desperate chance to stop Patrick Kane. His shot somehow glanced off Andersen’s lumber and flew over a painfully open net.Andersen kept the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference finals opener while his teammates got rolling. When they did, the Ducks streaked out to yet another early series lead.Hampus Lindholm, Nate Thompson and Jakob Silfverberg each had a goal and an assist, and the Ducks beat the Blackhawks 4-1 in Game 1 on Sunday.Andersen made 32 saves and Kyle Palmieri also scored as the Ducks opened their first conference finals in eight years by improving to 9-1 in these Stanley Cup playoffs. Although the Blackhawks clearly are a major step up in competition, the Ducks’ confidence grew with a strong all-around performance backed by brilliance from their imposing Danish goalie.

”I think everyone in the locker room knows we can beat this team,” said Andersen, who’s in his second NHL season. ”It’s a good feeling that we showed it in Game 1. They’re going to come harder. We’ll have to play better in Game 2.”

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Anaheim. Andersen had to be stellar under a heavy barrage of high-quality shots from the Blackhawks, who had won five straight postseason games heading into their third straight conference finals. Kane scored seven goals in the first two rounds, but could only shake his head on the bench after Andersen’s phenomenal stick save in the first period.

”He’s a battler, and you saw that on numerous saves he had tonight where it seemed like we had a good chance to score and he gets a leg or a stick on it,” Kane said. ”We knew that was the scouting report on him. Just got to bear down a little bit more on those opportunities.”

Brad Richards scored late in the second period and Corey Crawford stopped 23 shots for the Hawks, who hadn’t lost since April 23.Both teams’ offensive stars were shut down in the franchises’ first postseason meeting, but the Ducks’ supporting cast took over the scoring, capped by Silfverberg’s empty-net goal with 1:18 left.Andersen also made a handful of spectacular saves in the third when the Blackhawks pressed after Thompson made it 3-1 with 7:55 to play in a sequence created by speedy Andrew Cogliano.

”The way we were all able to contribute and help out definitely bodes well for our team,” Thompson said. ”We’ve always had good depth. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been successful here.”

These powerhouse teams both entered the series with prolonged momentum and plenty of rest: The Blackhawks never trailed in their second-round series sweep of Minnesota while reaching their third straight conference finals, while Anaheim steamrolled through the Pacific Division bracket with just one overtime defeat. The Blackhawks had the last 10 days off, and the Ducks had a full week off after disposing of Calgary in five games.

”They played a patient game,” Brandon Saad said of the Ducks. ”We came out and … had a pretty good start and felt good about ourselves, but throughout the second and third period it got progressively worse, and they took advantage.”

The clubs matched strengths from the opening minutes, with Ducks center Ryan Kesler chasing Jonathan Toews in a continuation of their long-running rivalry.The Hawks only injury problem was magnified: With Michal Rozsival out for the season with a broken ankle, defenseman David Rundblad made his playoff debut – and he was on the ice for the Ducks’ first two goals.Anaheim scored midway through the first period when Silfverberg made a sharp pass to Lindholm, and the Swedish defenseman put a big shot through traffic for his second goal of the postseason.The Hawks controlled long stretches of early play with its speed, but Andersen made 16 saves – none prettier than that diving stick deflection on Kane.

”We didn’t play so good in the first, but I thought the rest of the game, we were dominant,” Kesler said. ”Took it to them.”

Palmieri made it 2-0 early in the second with his first goal of the postseason, converting a pass from Thompson and sliding through the crease on his back in celebration. Rundblad and Johnny Oduya both failed to clear the puck before the decisive sequence.Richards finally broke through in the final minute of the second, forcing a turnover by Francois Beauchemin and putting a fierce shot under Andersen’s arm for his second postseason goal.Honda Center employees worked all night to prepare for the unusually early start time. Kanye West headlined a show in the building Saturday night, and arena staffers finished grooming the ice three hours before warmups.

NOTES—Rookie Jiri Sekac made his playoff debut for the Ducks, skating on their fourth line. The speedy, skillful Czech wing replaced Tim Jackman to match up with the Blackhawks’ strengths. … The Ducks have outscored their opponents 18-3 in the third period during this postseason. … Brent Seabrook played in his 100th postseason game. The Blackhawks had eight players on the ice with at least 100 games of playoff experience, while Anaheim has none.

Bulls(and perhaps Thibs)done as Cavs coast to E.Conf Finals with 94-73 rout

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No dominant performance by LeBron James. Not much from Kyrie Irving, either.The Cleveland Cavaliers,and not the Bulls, are headed to the Eastern Conference finals.James struggled to score 15 points, Irving limped off the court and the Cavaliers still beat the Bulls 94-73 on Thursday night to clinch their semifinal series in six games.Matthew Dellavedova scored 19 points and Tristan Thompson added 13 points and 17 rebounds to help the Cavaliers advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 even though their superstar played like a mere mortal and their All-Star point guard hobbled to the locker room in the first half.Despite all that, Cleveland is right where it expected to be after James decided to come home from Miami and return to his first team. The Cavaliers didn’t expect to get there like this, though – with Kevin Love suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the opening round and Irving trying to gut through problems with both legs.

”These guys work their tails off every single day when you guys are not around,” James said. ”Yes, I’m a little bit surprised because of how we’ve handled the postseason so far. These are first-timers right here (Dellavedova and Thompson) as well as Kyrie and Kev before the injury. They want to be good, they want to be great, and every single day they prepare the right way.”

Irving scored six points in 12 minutes before twisting his left knee when he came down on Thompson’s foot early in the second quarter. The score was 35-35 and he did not return.James had 11 assists and nine rebounds but hardly looked like the superhuman that carried Cleveland in Game 5 with 38 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks. He shot 7 of 23 from the field and missed all four 3-point attempts in this game. But the Cavaliers had more than enough to get by, setting up a meeting with Atlanta or Washington.It is James’ fifth straight conference finals, the previous four with Miami. Getting there sure hasn’t been easy with all the injuries.

”I do everything for my team, do everything for my teammates,” James said. ”I want these guys to be able to feel this moment. That’s what I came back here for. I’ve got four guys that never made the postseason that played a huge role on this team.”

Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 20 points and Derrick Rose finished with 14. Pau Gasol scored all of his eight points in the first quarter after missing the previous two games with a strained left hamstring, and the Bulls simply got overmatched in what could be their final game under coach Tom Thibodeau.There is heavy speculation that he could be out because of friction with management despite leading the Bulls to a 255-139 record and playoff appearances in each of his five seasons.

”I love him as a coach,” Rose said.

And Thibodeau said he expects to be back unless he’s told otherwise.

”Yeah. Until they tell me I’m not, I expect to be here,” he said. ”That’s the way I’m going to approach it.”

Iman Shumpert scored 13 points for Cleveland. Dellavedova, James Jones and J.R. Smith (12 points) all hit three 3-pointers and combined to score 40 points.Even with Irving missing most of the second quarter and James scoring just six points on 3-of-11 shooting, the Cavaliers led 58-44 at halftime and maintained control the rest of the way.Things were not looking good for Cleveland when Irving landed on Thompson’s foot and hit the court grimacing in pain with 9:47 left in the half. He limped to the sideline and headed to the locker room.

”He’s sore and bowed but not broken. He’ll be OK,” coach David Blatt said.

After Irving went down, James tweaked his back.Even so, the Cavaliers went on a 20-2 run to go up 58-42 before Butler scored on a layup in the closing seconds of the half.Shumpert had nine points during that stretch and let Nikola Mirotic hear about it when he nailed a 3 after getting clotheslined by the Bulls forward less than a minute earlier.

NOTES—Mike Dunleavy Jr. when asked at the shootaround about the Bulls’ pulse: ”We got a good pulse. We’re alive, eating well.”…..Irving acknowledged the time he is spending treating his injuries is taking away from his preparation on the court ”a little bit.” He said he will not need surgery and that the medical team told him the only cure is rest. ”That’s the only thing that will help me right now,” he said…..Joakim Noah won the J. Walter Kennedy Award, given annually to an NBA player, coach or trainer for community service. The two-time All-Star was selected by the Pro Basketball Writers Association for his work with youth. His Noah’s Arc Foundation recently launched the ”Rock Your Drop: The Drop of Consciousness” anti-violence initiative, supporting those impacted by violence and encouraging youngsters to express themselves through sports and art.

Cavs hold off late Bulls rally, lead three games to two, Gibson ejected.

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CLEVELAND—With the ”Big 3” reduced to the ”Banged-Up 2,” LeBron James again showed why he’s Cleveland’s one and only.James scored 38 points, Kyrie Irving added 25 and the Cavaliers held off the Bulls charge in the fourth quarter for a 106-101 victory over the Bulls on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in their testy Eastern Conference semifinal.Showing no ill effects from a sprained left ankle, James added 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals, three blocks and didn’t have a turnover in 41 minutes to ensure the Cavs will again play at home this season.

”LeBron was just outstanding, every element of the game,” Cavs coach David Blatt said. ”You can’t pick a thing he didn’t do at the highest level.”

Cleveland can wrap up the best-of-seven series and advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 with a win in Game 6 on Thursday night back at United Center, where the teams exchanged buzzer-beating victories last weekend.The drama wasn’t quite as high in Game 5, but it was close and it was intense.Jimmy Butler scored 29 and Mike Dunleavy 19. Derrick Rose scored 16, 12 in the first quarter, but the star guard shot just 2 of 15 in the final three quarters and aggravated a shoulder ”stinger” he sustained in Game 1.Fueled by an altercation that led to the ejection of Taj Gibson, the Cavs led by 17 with 6:09 left and then had to hold off a furious comeback by the Bulls, who got within 101-99 on Butler’s 3-pointer with 1:18 left.Cleveland, though, got a huge offensive rebound by Iman Shumpert before Irving, playing on a sprained right foot and sore left knee, made four free throws in the final 17 seconds.The Bulls were missing big man Pau Gasol, who sat out his second straight game with a strained left hamstring and didn’t sound confident before Game 5 that he’d be ready by Thursday.They also played the final 10:25 without Gibson, ejected for kicking Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova. Gibson shoved Dellavedova to the floor and then kicked the scrappy backup, who angered the Bulls forward by clamping his legs around Gibson’s. Players on both teams exchanged shoves and pushes before the officials got things under control.Gibson could be facing further discipline from the league, and Dellavedova, too, might get slapped for his role.

”I was surprised (to be ejected),” Gibson said. ”I really just tried to release my foot because as soon as I got up off the ground, I just felt somebody tugging on my leg.”

The Cavs were sparked by the incident and opened a 90-73 lead before the Bulls came charging back.Dunleavy scored six points in an 11-0 run that got the Bulls back in it before the Cavs gained their composure and closed it out.

”I love the way that we fought back,” Rose said. ”I thought we had a crack at it, we just didn’t execute right.”

James, who came in shooting just 38 percent in the series, didn’t show the slightest signs of being slowed by the sprain he sustained late in Game 4. He ran the floor with abandon, posted up whenever possible and seemed intent on taking care of the Bulls by himself.He scored Cleveland’s first 12 points of the second quarter, helping the Cavs open a 10-point lead. James finished one drive by powering through Nikola Mirotic, who couldn’t stop the 250-pound, wine-and-gold-clad truck. After the basket, James glanced at his biceps and then brushed his arm as if flicking off a bug.

”We were slow. He was quicker,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson came up big again, adding 12 points and 10 boards in 38 minutes. He’s filling in for Kevin Love, who is out following shoulder surgery.Mirotic had the game’s longest shot, dropping a 50-footer at the horn to end the third, bringing the Bulls within 80-71.

NOTES—Thibodeau was ”disappointed” to learn coach Monty Williams was fired by New Orleans despite leading his team to the playoffs. Thibodeau and Williams were assistants on the U.S. national team last summer. ”He’s a great friend, a great coach and more importantly a great person,” Thibodeau said. … Before scoring more than 30 points in Games 3 and 4, Rose had not posted consecutive 30-point playoff games since 2011, when he went over 30 in three straight against Atlanta. … The Bulls are one of just seven franchises in league history to make the playoffs seven straight seasons. San Antonio (18) and Atlanta (8) are the others…..Just as during the regular season, injuries – significant ones to star players – have been prevalent during the postseason as well. ”It’s just the year it is. It’s not even just the playoffs. It’s the whole season,” James said. ”A lot of the key guys in our league. You look at Durant. You look at Kobe. You look at Westbrook. You look at some of the key guys in our league, you just have some injuries that are bad for our game when you have so many key guys who are out. This year was very different from any other.”

This time, James hits buzzer beater as Cavs even series at 2-2.

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LeBron James watched his coach draw up the final play – and then drew one up of his own.

”Give me the ball and get out of the way,” he said.

James overruled Cleveland coach David Blatt’s idea for a last-second inbounds play and drained a jumper from the corner at the buzzer to give the Cavaliers an 86-84 victory over the Bulls on Sunday, evening the Eastern Conference semifinal series at 2-2.During a stoppage the Cavs only got because the officials were reviewing a play, Blatt designed a play that had James taking the ball out. The four-time NBA MVP has been in enough pressure situations that he vetoed his coach.

”I was supposed to take the ball out,” James said. ”I told Coach there was no way I’m taking the ball out unless I could shoot it over the backboard and go in. So I told him, `Have somebody else take the ball out.’ The play that was drawn up, I scratched it. I just told Coach, `Just give me the ball. We’re either going to go into overtime or I’m going to win it for us.”’

James, playing the final quarter on a sprained left ankle, finished with 25 points to help the Cavaliers win in another wild finish, returning the favor after the Bulls took Game 3 on Derrick Rose’s banked 3-pointer at the horn.This time, James got whistled for an offensive foul when he elbowed Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Rose scored on a driving layup with 9.4 seconds left. Blatt tried to call a timeout but didn’t have one and assistant Tyronn Lue alertly pulled him off the court.Then, following an animated break, James ended it with the 21-foot jumper over Jimmy Butler, setting off a wild celebration by Cleveland’s players who pinned James to the scorer’s table.Game 5 of the best-of-seven series that’s had about everything is Tuesday night in Cleveland.James rolled his left ankle in the third quarter, but fought off the injury. He committed eight turnovers and struggled again from the field, hitting 10 of 30 shots after going 8 of 25 in Game 3. But he also had 14 rebounds, eight assists and a shot that gave Cleveland fans some comfort after Rose broke their hearts on Friday night.

”There’s nothing you can do about it,” Rose said of James’ contested jumper. ”He hit a great shot. He’s a hell of a player. We just have to make sure that if we’re in that position again, just make sure that we force him out a little bit more or make someone else get the ball.”

Kyrie Irving, playing with a sprained right foot, was 2 of 10 and had 12 points and two assists.Timofey Mozgov had 15 points and nine rebounds, and J.R. Smith, who was suspended for Games 1 and 2, came on strong for Cleveland down the stretch, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.Rose scored 31 points and Butler added 19. They were the only players in double figures for the Bulls, who were playing without Pau Gasol, out with a strained left hamstring. His status for Game 5 is in question.

”I thought the last two (games) could have gone either way,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”They’re hard fought. They’re a great team.”

The Cavaliers went more than 7 minutes without scoring in the third and got a major scare late in the quarter when James rolled his left ankle when stepped on Rose’s foot and was called for a charge.Blatt had a rough final few minutes, nearly costing the Cavs by trying to call a timeout and then having James change his play call.

”Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes and we have to be able to cover for one-another,” James said.

Rose hit two free throws with 1:32 remaining to make it 82-79, but he missed a 3 with about a minute remaining after Joakim Noah took a charge against James.Cleveland’s superstar then hit two free throws to make it a five-point game.Butler buried a 3 with 27 seconds left to cut it to 84-82.The Cavaliers called a timeout with 21.2 seconds left and burned two more timeouts trying to inbound it. They finally got the ball to a double-teamed James, who got called for a foul after he turned and swung his elbow into Dunleavy.Rose drove for a tying layup with 9.4 seconds left. Blatt tried to call a timeout that he didn’t have, but Lue restrained him, preventing a technical. ”Yeah, I almost blew it, to be honest with you,” Blatt said. James made sure he didn’t.

NOTES—James on his ankle: ”I wasn’t coming out. I can’t afford to come out, not only because of the position that our team is in but because of who I am as a leader of this team. I was going to fight through it no matter what. That’s why we have a great training staff. They’ll probably be on me around the clock to make sure my wheel is as close to 100 percent as possible by Tuesday.”…The Cavaliers shot 38.7 percent and were 5 of 25 on 3-pointers…..Taj Gibson started for Gasol and finished with six points and eight rebounds.

Rose bank’s in three pointer at buzzer, Bulls stun Cavs 99-96, lead series 2 games to 1

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Derrick Rose banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer and scored 30 points Friday night to give the Bulls a 99-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers and a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.Cleveland had just tied it on a 3-pointer by J.R. Smith with 10.8 seconds left when Rose came through with the winner.He took the inbounds pass from Mike Dunleavy Jr. on the sideline after Chicago called time with 3 seconds remaining. Rose then dribbled past the top of the key before burying a wild shot over Tristan Thompson, drawing a mob from his teammates and a deafening roar from the crowd for the hometown star who returned from his most recent knee surgery late in the season.LeBron James scored 27 points for Cleveland and passed Tony Parker, Steve Nash and Larry Bird for fourth on the career playoff assists list. He had 14 in the game, giving him 1,073.The Bulls never won more than one game in three previous playoff series against teams led by James. But the Bulls have a chance to take a commanding lead with Game 4 at home on Sunday.Smith, back from a two-game suspension, scored 14 points. Kyrie Irving shot 3 of 13 and finished with 11 points and no assists.Jimmy Butler scored 20 points, Dunleavy added 16 points, and Nikola Mirotic scored 12. One concern for the Bulls was Pau Gasol straining his left hamstring. The Bulls announced late in the game that he would not return.In a game that was tense and tight the whole way, Rose gave Chicago a 92-91 lead with a free throw with 2:09 remaining. But he also missed on a drive with James guarding him. He had another layup blocked by Thompson before Butler missed a 3, resulting in a shot-clock violation with 52 seconds remaining.Butler then reached in on James, who hit two free throws to give Cleveland a 93-92 lead with 41.5 seconds left. But Butler drove along the baseline, stopped and spun for a layup.James then missed on a drive and fouled Taj Gibson as he grabbed the rebound, resulting in two free throws that made it 96-93. Smith buried a 3 with 10.8 seconds remaining, but Rose answered, drawing a wild ovation.

NOTES—The Cavaliers got caught in traffic and did not show up at the arena until a little over an hour before tipoff. If the late arrival bothered his players, coach David Blatt did not see any signs before the game……”I was thinking about that when I got off the bus,” Blatt said. ”I was looking at our guys and it didn’t seem to bother them. I’ve seen situations where guys get really nervous under those circumstances.”…..Iman Shumpert started again after injuring his groin during Game 2. He finished with eight points on 3-of-9 shooting…..The NBA fined C Joakim Noah $25,000 for pushing a fan at halftime of the Bulls’ loss to Cleveland in Game 2 on Wednesday night..

Hawks sweep Wild, third straight trip to W.Conf Finals(and 5th in 7 yrs)

ST. PAUL—Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks controlled this second-round series from start to finish, except for a frenzied attempt by the Minnesota Wild to send Game 4 into overtime.No sweat.They still finished the sweep.Crawford made 34 saves, Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, and the Blackhawks advanced to the Western Conference finals for the fifth time in seven years with a 4-3 victory over the Wild on Thursday night.

”It may have looked a little hectic, but I think our team remained calm,” left wing Patrick Sharp said, ”and we did what we had to do.”

The Wild never led in the series, but they had a big rally after falling behind 4-1 on Marian Hossa’s short-handed, empty-net goal with 3:07 left. Devan Dubnyk, who made 21 saves to cap a remarkable run for the Wild since arriving in a season-saving mid-January trade, was pulled for most of the last four minutes.Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter scored with 2:18 and 1:27 remaining to give the Wild one last chance, but the final few whacks were either wide or turned aside by Crawford, who stopped 124 of 131 shots in the four games for a robust .947 save percentage. The Blackhawks improved to 30-0, including 5-0 in this postseason, when leading after two periods.

”They want to be successful. They want to find ways to win, and in the end they want to be champions,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said, praising the resolve of his players over that final frantic sequence.

Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw also scored for the Blackhawks, who were down to five defensemen after a serious injury to veteran Michal Roszival. Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell had two assists apiece, and the Hawks eliminated Minnesota from the playoffs for the third straight year, winning 12 of the 15 games.Dubnyk said he felt ”sick” about it.

”To be with the group that we have, to finish it that way, it just doesn’t feel right,” he said.

The Blackhawks have scored 12 times in the first period in 10 games this postseason. They’re 5-1 when scoring first.

”We don’t think about being special,” Kane said. ”If we have a good game the game before, we want to be even better. If we have a bad game, we want to wipe the slate clean and not feel sorry for ourselves, come back, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The Blackhawks showed their deft finishing touch throughout the series, making so many of their prime opportunities count. The Wild simply didn’t, though they couldn’t help but shake their heads about some of the bad bounces against them.Seabrook gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead with his shot off Wild defenseman Marco Scandella’s shin and into the upper corner of the net.Toews took the game’s first penalty, hooking early in the second period, and the Wild just missed several chances to score on the power play. Defenseman Matt Dumba and center Mikael Granlund took the place of the struggling Pominville and Thomas Vanek on the first unit.Soon after Toews left the box, he picked up the puck and threaded a perfect pass to a streaking Marcus Kruger, who drew a hooking call on Nino Niederreiter. The Blackhawks scored on their power play when Shaw knocked a loose puck between Dubnyk’s pads.

”We had a great run, and obviously that’s not the way we wanted it to end,” said Vanek, who was dropped down to the third line. ”They were tight games, and their scorers scored when they needed to, timely goals. I didn’t.”

Vanek had a breakaway when Rozsival lost his balance and fell backward while badly injuring his left leg, but Crawford brushed Vanek’s shot aside with his blocker. Rozsival was helped off the ice, his left leg hanging limp without any weight on it.Erik Haula scored in the second period to pull the Wild within 2-1, his speed and energy on the fourth line providing a bright spot for the Wild. That was the first goal by a Wild forward in a stretch of 177 minutes and 11 seconds since the middle of the second period of Game 1. Dumba scored in Game 2, the only other goal during that stretch as Crawford gained more and more confidence by the shot.

”You feel it’s a waste of a year, because we had a chance and we were playing some good hockey coming into the postseason and we proved it in the first round,” Pominville said, reflecting on the six-game victory over Central Division champion St. Louis. ”But it wasn’t good enough in the second.”

NOTES—This was the first sweep by the Blackhawks since the Western Conference finals in 2010 against San Jose. … Haula had four goals and three assists for the Wild in 13 playoff games last year. This was his first score since Feb. 28.