Hawks wipe out Ducks, win Western Conf Crown, face Tampa Bay in Stanley Cup Finals



ANAHEIM—Jonathan Toews scored two goals in the opening minutes, Corey Crawford made 35 saves and the Blackhawks roared into the Stanley Cup finals with a 5-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals Saturday night.Brandon Saad, Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook also scored for the Blackhawks, who will play for their third NHL championship in six seasons when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning beginning Wednesday night in Florida.After six games of tense hockey in an extraordinary series, Game 7 was an incongruous rout. Toews was responsible for it, burnishing his reputation for big-game brilliance with a rebound goal just 2:23 in and another power-play score before 12 minutes elapsed.Anaheim lost a Game 7 at home for the third straight season.Game one in Tampa is Wednesday night.

It’s done, worst kept secret becomes reality as Bulls launch Thibodeau

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

After weeks of rumors and reports, the Bulls announced Thursday that they have fired head coach Tom Thibodeau. He was let go with two years and approximately nine million dollars left on his contract.Thibodeau has been the Bulls coach since 2010 and was successful in his five years with the team (255-139). He won the Coach of the Year award in 2011 and the Bulls made it to the Eastern Conference Finals that same year, their most successful playoff run under Thibodeau. However injuries to key players like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah have stymied the Bulls since then. The Bulls went 50-32 this past season and were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the playoffs.There have been conflicts between Thibodeau and the Bulls front office for the last several years and the relationship was strained even further in the past couple of months. The team’s press release announcing Thibodeau’s dismissal openly discusses this tension.

Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said, “The Chicago Bulls have a history of achieving great success on and off the court. These accomplishments have been possible because of an organizational culture where input from all parts of the organization has been welcomed and valued, there has been a willingness to participate in a free flow of information, and there have been clear and consistent goals. While the head of each department of the organization must be free to make final decisions regarding his department, there must be free and open interdepartmental discussion and consideration of everyone’s ideas and opinions. These internal discussions must not be considered an invasion of turf, and must remain private. Teams that consistently perform at the highest levels are able to come together and be unified across the organization-staff, players, coaches, management and ownership. When everyone is on the same page, trust develops and teams can grow and succeed together. Unfortunately, there has been a departure from this culture. To ensure that the Chicago Bulls can continue to grow and succeed, we have decided that a change in the head coaching position is required. Days like today are difficult, but necessary for us to achieve our goals and fulfill our commitments to our fans. I appreciate the contributions that Tom Thibodeau made to the Bulls organization. I have always respected his love of the game and wish him well in the future.”


“When Tom was hired in 2010, he was right for our team and system at that time, and over the last five years we have had some success with Tom as our head coach,” said  Bulls General Manager Gar Forman. “But as we looked ahead and evaluated how we as a team and an organization could continue to grow and improve, we believed a change in approach was needed.”

Despite these statements from the Bulls, Thibodeau will be a hot commodity among teams looking for a new head coach. The Orlando Magic and the New Orleans Pelicans are rumored to be potential landing spots for Thibodeau.

Hawks score three times in 3:45 span to beat Ducks 5-2, force game seven Saturday in Anaheim


It is really hard to wear out Duncan Keith. He just keeps going and going and going.Keith had three assists and saved a goal in the third period, and the Blackhawks beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 on Wednesday night to force a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals.The Blackhawks’ biggest stars stepped up during a key stretch in the second, led by another terrific all-around performance for Keith. Shaking off the Ducks’ plan to wear down the Hawks top four defensemen, Keith had his fourth multipoint game of the playoffs.

“He’s kind of a freak as far as his metabolism and conditioning level,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think the more he plays, the more efficient, the more he gets going.”
The Blackhawks forced a Game 7 by scoring from in-close. We take a closer look at their keys to victory.The Blackhawks refused to let their season end, pushing the Ducks to a decisive Game 7 with a berth in the Stanley Cup finals on the line.Andrew Shaw had two goals late in the third, sending the Ducks to their first regulation loss of the playoffs. Brandon Saad, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane also scored, and Corey Crawford made 30 saves.

Next up for the NHL playoffs is a double dip of Game 7s to determine which teams will play for the Stanley Cup. The New York Rangers host the Tampa Bay Lightning in the East final Friday night, and the Blackhawks and Ducks meet in Anaheim on Saturday night.

It is only the second time in the expansion era since the 1967-68 playoffs that each of the conference finals required a Game 7. The other time was in 2000, when New Jersey went on to beat Dallas for the NHL title.

“I think the finality of it is what stands out,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I mean, one group is going to go home and one group’s going to go play for the Stanley Cup. There’s really not a lot you can leave on the table.”

The Ducks and Blackhawks each dropped a home Game 7 to Los Angeles last season. Anaheim blew a 3-2 series lead against the Kings in the second round, and the Blackhawks lost 5-4 in overtime in the West finals on a deflected shot from Los Angeles defenseman Alec Martinez.

“I remember the feeling after we lost that game,” Kane said. “We definitely don’t want that feeling again.”

Patrick Maroon and Clayton Stoner scored for the Ducks, and Frederik Andersen made 18 saves.Anaheim caught a break when Jakob Silfverberg brushed up against Crawford’s glove on Stoner’s first goal of the playoffs at 1:57 of the third, trimming the lead to 3-2. There was no call on the play and Crawford threw up his hands in exasperation after Stoner’s big slap shot went into the net.But Crawford quickly put the play behind him, hanging tough while the Ducks made a frantic push for the tying goal. He got some help from Keith when the two-time Norris Trophy winner swept a shot away from the goal line about 3½ minutes into the period.

“It’s unbelievable,” Shaw said. “He’s one of those athletes who digs down and finds that extra step.”

Shaw finally got the Blackhawks some breathing room when he beat Andersen with a nifty backhander high into the net with 3:32 left. Andrew Desjardins made a nice hustle play to get the puck over to Shaw for his third playoff goal.Shaw then added an empty-netter in the final minute as the Hawks improved to 7-1 at home in the playoffs.

“I think we chased the game a little bit tonight and I think we let them dictate the second period,” Ducks center Ryan Kesler said. “They scored three quick ones. It’s tough to come back from three goals. We gave it a shot there.”

Keith picked up his first assist in the second when he made a long pass ahead to Kane, who touched it to a streaking Saad. The rugged forward then skated in and beat Andersen for a 1-0 lead, sending a charge through the crowd of 22,089.The team with the first goal has won each of the first six games.Keith connected with Hossa for a pretty score at 10:41, patiently waiting while the winger got open on the other side of the net. He got his 14th assist of the playoffs when Kane made a dazzling move to get past Matt Beleskey and then managed to squeeze a shot past Andersen with 7:52 left in the second.Keith played 28½ minutes. He leads the NHL in ice time for the playoffs.

“I’ve always taken pride in working out and training,” he said. “When I was younger, I was never a big guy, I’m still not the biggest guy. It’s a way to try and maybe even the playing field in some ways.”

NOTES—Ducks D Simon Despres hurt his left leg in the third period, but returned to the game after a quick trip to the locker room. … Kimmo Timonen was inactive, and David Rundblad returned to the lineup for the first time since the Hawks 4-1 loss in Game 1 against the Ducks. Timonen played in each of the Blackhawks’ first 15 postseason games. … F Emerson Etem got back in the lineup for the Ducks. F Tomas Fleischmann was inactive after he played 10:14 in Monday night’s victory.

NU extends Hoops Coach Chris Collins

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)

EVANSTON—Northwestern has agreed to a contract extension with men’s basketball coach Chris Collins.The school did not provide any details while announcing the move on Tuesday.Collins, who replaced Bill Carmody, is 29-36 in two seasons. Northwestern went 14-19 his first season and 15-17 last season.With veterans Alex Olah and Tre Demps along with sophomores Vic Law and Bryant McIntosh returning, the Wildcats appear poised to contend for the school’s first NCAA tournament bid.

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

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

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.