CHICAGO » Derrick Rose banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer and scored 30 points Friday night to give the Chicago 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.
Chicago 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 for Chicago. Dunleavy added 16 points, and Nikola Mirotic scored 12. One concern for Chicago 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.
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."
Cavaliers: Iman Shumpert started again after injuring his groin during Game 2. He finished with eight points on 3-of-9 shooting.
Bulls: 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.