Leaner O'Neal aids James in mission

CLEVELAND — They've got more depth. They've got more size. They've got Shaquille O'Neal. And, of course, they've still got LeBron James. The Cavaliers have a different look this postseason.

"We," James said, "have the look of a champion."

Healthy and well-rested, the Cavaliers took their first step toward an NBA title Saturday as James scored 24, and Shaquille O'Neal looked and played 10 years younger in a 96-83 victory over the Bulls in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

O'Neal, playing for the first time since tearing a thumb ligament Feb. 25, had 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 24 minutes as the top-seeded Cavs won a testy opener.

"I have no friends in that locker room, except for Danny Green," said Bull and former Gator Joakim Noah, who was plagued by foul trouble and booed by Cleveland fans.

The Bulls, who trimmed a 22-point deficit to seven in the fourth quarter before wearing down, got 28 points from Derrick Rose.

But Cleveland has been rebuilt for a title run, adding starters O'Neal, Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker to a team that made it to the Eastern finals.

"Everyone knows it's the first team to 16 wins," said O'Neal, who dropped 20 pounds while out by dieting and swimming.

Posting up Noah in the foul lane, the 7-foot-1 O'Neal, 38, made a quick spin move toward the baseline that faked out the Bulls center, who stumbled forward and nearly fell on his face. O'Neal then delivered a dunk and sprinted away with a scowl.

"That's the 'Diesel Truck with No Brakes,' " O'Neal said. "When I get into that mood, people get out of the way because they know I'm in the cab and I don't have any brakes."

CHICAGO (83): Deng 5-15 2-5 12, T.Gibson 4-10 0-0 8, Noah 4-9 2-2 10, Rose 13-28 2-2 28, Hinrich 4-10 0-0 8, Miller 2-4 0-0 4, Murray 3-6 2-2 9, Warrick 2-4 0-0 4, Richard 0-0 0-0 0, Pargo 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-87 8-11 83.

CLEVELAND (96): James 9-19 6-7 24, Jamison 7-14 0-0 15, O'Neal 5-9 2-5 12, M.Williams 8-14 0-0 19, Parker 3-8 2-3 9, Varejao 3-7 2-2 8, West 2-7 0-0 4, Ilgauskas 1-3 0-0 2, Moon 1-2 0-0 3, D.Gibson 0-0 0-0 0, Hickson 0-1 0-0 0, J.Williams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 39-84 12-17 96.

Chicago 18 23 19 23— 83

Cleveland 32 24 17 23— 96

3-Point GoalsChicago 1-7 (Murray 1-3, Rose 0-2, Hinrich 0-2), Cleveland 6-23 (M.Williams 3-7, Moon 1-2, Jamison 1-4, Parker 1-6, James 0-1, West 0-3). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsChicago 46 (Noah, Hinrich 8), Cleveland 57 (Varejao 15). AssistsChicago 19 (Rose 10), Cleveland 27 (M.Williams 10). Total FoulsChicago 19, Cleveland 15. TechnicalsMiller, James. A20,562.

Hawks 102, Bucks 92: For one magnificent half, the host Hawks did nearly everything right and nearly ran Milwaukee out of the building.

Joe Johnson scored 22, Mike Bibby added 19 and Jamal Crawford put up 17 points in the first postseason appearance of his 10-year career as the Hawks blitzed the Bucks before halftime, survived a lackluster second half and grabbed a 1-0 lead in their East series.

"We probably played as good in the first half as we've played all year," coach Mike Woodson said.

The Hawks took advantage of the absence of Bucks center Andrew Bogut (broken hand, dislocated elbow) and never trailed in building a 20-point lead in the first quarter and going to halftime with a 62-40 edge.

"The first half, we were a little shell-shocked," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said.

Milwaukee made a game of it led by Brandon Jennings, who scored 34 in his playoff debut. But the rookie didn't have nearly enough help.

MILWAUKEE (92): Delfino 1-4 2-2 4, Mbah a Moute 4-5 0-1 8, Thomas 2-6 0-0 4, Jennings 14-25 2-4 34, Salmons 6-18 4-4 16, Gadzuric 0-0 0-0 0, Ridnour 3-8 2-2 9, Stackhouse 3-10 0-0 6, Ilyasova 4-6 2-4 11. Totals 37-82 12-17 92.

ATLANTA (102): Williams 4-5 4-4 12, Jos.Smith 6-10 0-2 12, Horford 7-14 1-1 15, Bibby 8-9 0-0 19, Johnson 10-21 2-2 22, Crawford 4-11 6-8 17, Evans 1-4 0-0 2, Pachulia 1-2 1-2 3, J. Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Teague 0-0 0-0 0, West 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 41-76 14-19 102.

Milwaukee 17 23 30 22— 92

Atlanta 34 28 19 21— 102

3-Point GoalsMilwaukee 6-20 (Jennings 4-6, Ilyasova 1-2, Ridnour 1-3, Delfino 0-1, Stackhouse 0-3, Salmons 0-5), Atlanta 6-11 (Bibby 3-3, Crawford 3-5, Evans 0-1, Johnson 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsMilwaukee 46 (Thomas 9), Atlanta 44 (Jos.Smith 10). AssistsMilwaukee 11 (Jennings 3), Atlanta 18 (Johnson 5). Total FoulsMilwaukee 18, Atlanta 17. A18,729.

Celtics 85, Heat 76: Kevin Garnett had 15 points and nine rebounds, and the host Celtics played Miami-style defense to take a 1-0 lead in their East series. Trailing 44-41 at halftime, the Celtics held the Heat to 32 points in the second half.

Leaner O'Neal aids James in mission 04/18/10 [Last modified: Sunday, April 18, 2010 5:45pm]

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