LeBron James played his fourth consecutive NBA Finals and now he has a big problem. Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 3, and they will face 1-3 on Sunday when Chicago Bulls will have the opportunity to defend their home court once more.
On the other side, Chicago Bulls have a great chance to win this series and if they do, that will be only the second time in the last 17 years to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, since Michael Jordan's era.
The last time they played in the Eastern Conference Finals was in the season 2010/11, when they lost against Miami Heat and LeBron James, 1-4.
* An interesting fact is that Bulls played three times against LeBron James and they lost 4-1 all three times. They played two series against Miami Heat and one against Cleveland Cavaliers.
* That was the first time that Bulls won more than one game against LeBron James. Is that telling you something?
The series between Cleveland and Chicago is the best series in the 2nd round in the 2015 NBA Playoffs. The favorite from this series is the favorite for the NBA Finals since they are stronger than Washington Wizards without John Wall and Atlanta Hawks because they have a lot more intensity and quality at this moment.
LeBron James: The NBA Playoffs Without The Big Three
That is the first time in the last four years that LeBron will not have the Big Three on the roster because Kevin Love is done for the season.
And what if Kevin Love doesn't sign a contract for Cleveland Cavaliers this summer? Is the trade of Andrew Wiggins the biggest mistake in the Cavs office in their history?
LeBron must stay aggressive. He should believe more in himself in the attack. Kyrie Irving is not Dwyane Wade. He is a scorer, and he doesn't play great defense nor does he play with playoff intensity like D-Wade.
This is his first playoff, and I understand that he must find his "fire" in the offense and more willingness in the defense.
J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert are playing very well, but the first one is not a great defender, and the second one must play more minutes from the bench.
We can't forget that Cavs lost Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao this season. And that is a tough blow for David Blatt. But, what can he do? He must stay positive, and he will try to mix the roster with James Jones and Mike Miller. Is that enough? Does Dellavedova deserve more minutes?
LeBron is a developer on the court. He always has help from minimum two players like Wade and Bosh or Love and Irving. Today, he should find new Ray Allen on his team against the Bulls. Every player has a team behind them. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, they all had good depth, and they had players to step up in every game.
"I've still got really high hopes for this team. I think what we have, we could still compete at a high level," James said. "Obviously, we knew with the loss of Kev, a lot of people had to step up. Like I said, not only fill his shoes but do more. The injuries have definitely taken a toll on our team right now … but guys have to step up, including myself."
Who will step up today?
First, LeBron James must step up. He must play with the fire in his eyes, with the strength and belief that he can beat the Bulls on both sides of the court.
"As leader of the team, I can't be down about anything," James said. "Even though it hurts me to lose last night, I hate losing. It was tough for me to sleep last night, but I'm not going to be shattered, not around these guys."
David Blatt doesn't have frontcourts with the skills from the post, but he can use them for offensive rebounds. Find Kyrie Irving, pass the ball to J.R. Smith, play pick n roll with Tristan Thompson and if you pass the ball to Mozgov, he must return the pass because Chicago will use that open space, and Gasol and Noah will let Mozgov shoot from the distance.
In the Game 2, LeBron won. Now, he has one more chance to prove that he is capable of beating the reigning Chicago Bulls with Derrick Rose.
"I'm 12 years in the league, it's no mechanics at this point. You just miss shots," James said. "Four of my misses last night were at the rim, layups. Late in the fourth, to start the game, I had a couple also, so I'm not too much worried about that. My three-point shot, that's something that's kind of out of whack right now. That's something I will continue to hone in and getter with that, but I'm not too worried about the shot selection I've been getting."
Jimmy Butler is Lebron James’ nightmare in this series. James is shooting 19% from 10 ft out or further. Just 24% on jumpers when given at least 4 ft of space to shoot. And in the Game 3, he shot just 8/25.
This is his moment of truth. Without the Big Three and just with Kyrie Irving.
He can't guard Derrick Rose because he is faster than him. LeBron will guard Jimmy Butler and if David Blatt decides so, he can guard Pau Gasol or Taj Gibson on the post.
LeBron isn't using isolation plays very well. He is not aggressive and he is thinking more about how to provide better action to his players than about himself because he has the space, and he should use that space better than ever.
"He's the Michael Jordan of our generation," Gibson said of James. "He's extremely talented, extremely physical, it's just tough [defending him], man. It's funny I was just watching the Detroit Pistons documentary [Thursday], about how you just have to go after guys all these years. We've been seeing LeBron over and over over the years, and every year we just kept getting better and better. You see how Jimmy was stepping up taking those shots he wasn't taking last year and it's big. We need everybody."
Cleveland must win to stay in the game. And LeBron knows that. I can't wait to see how far will LeBron take the Cavs against the Bulls today.
The Game 4 is not only big for LeBron James, but also for Derrick Rose.
Derrick Rose: The Comeback
"That's Derrick's greatness," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "There are not many like him. In fact, there are not any like him. You combine his speed, his quickness and power and he's shaking the rust off. The more he plays, the more comfortable he's getting and the more rhythm he has."
Derrick Rose: I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
That is Michael Jordan's quote. Who can use it better than Derrick Rose? He is a successor of Michael Jordan.
After two injuries, he sent a message last night not only to the basketball world, he sent a message to every person in the universe.
You must believe in yourself. It doesn't matter how big your wall in front of you is, but how far you can jump or how strong your mind is to destroy all walls around you.
Remember this one: If you are not dedicated, every wall is stronger than you, even a paper wall.
Passion, denial, hunger, discipline and legacy. Believe in yourself. Believe in light and respect darkness.
You can destroy every wall around you. Your mind holds the power, stronger than any problem in front of you. And are we talking about the wall? No. We are talking about you. You can beat that wall, but first - you must beat yourself.
Without celebration, with rage in his game because he missed two seasons, the whole world underestimates him, because only a small percent believes in him that he can come back like a champion and that he is capable of playing like a champion.
"Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
First, you can't play. Second, you think about that. You can feel the fear and darkness. But, in any darkness you can see a light. And you can walk through that road full of fire and shadows. Also, you are full of weakness because you were on the highest level, and you failed. And now, you are at the beginning.
Every move is hard. Every step is big. And every training is important. From day one. It's about the discipline, it's about challenge and it's about knowledge of yourself.
You can feel the energy and only you know how difficult that road has been in the last two years.
He is Derrick Rose and he is back.
Game winning shot is just a beginning.
The Game 4 is the most important game in Derrick Rose's career.
He is the legatee of Michael Jordan, and Jimmy Butler is the legatee of Scottie Pippen.
If you want to be a champion, you must defeat a champion like LeBron James.
I will not talk about Pau Gasol if he can play or not. Every player must step up, re-unite and unite and each player must play not every minute, but every second, harder than ever.
They say that Derrick Rose doesn't play well if he has just one day to rest. This the moment in which there is now looking back.
The whole Game 4 is like the last shot in the Game 3.
The Basketball World is ready to watch the most important game for LeBron James and Derrick Rose.
Can LeBron win one more time like he has done in the past?
Can Derrick Rose beat the past and take the Bulls to the future?
This is more than points. We are talking about legacy and champions.
This is the Game of Truth.