As Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro often says, winning playoffs games usually comes down to making plays down the stretch.
The Bulls made plays at both ends of the court to hold on for a 108-106 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday night in Game 3 of the first-round series, but the biggest two plays came on the defensive end when they forced consecutive turnovers by LeBron James - a charge drawn by Luol Deng and a strip by Bulls center Joakim Noah -- in the final 1:18.
The charge call was crucial - and controversial.
With the Bulls leading 102-96, James came up with a steal on the defensive end and then looked to drive to the basket on the left side of the lane. He collided with Deng and then flipped the ball up and into the basket.
A three-point play would have trimmed the Bulls' lead to three points, but the officials called James for a charge, giving the ball back to the Bulls with 1:18 to play.
Replays appeared to show Deng moving into James' path, but the Bulls got the call against the likely winner of the NBA's Most Valuable Player award.
Afterward, James was asked what he saw on the play.
"I saw me and Luol, I saw him back peddling," James said. "Me as a driver, I'm watching the defender's feet and I'm seeing if he's stationary or [if] he's still moving. To me, I felt like he was still back peddling. As soon as I saw him back peddling, that's when I decided to take off.
"They called a charge. I haven't seen a replay, but I know exactly what I saw on the court with the defender right in front of me."
After the whistle, the Bulls held their collective breath waiting for the call.
"On Lu's charge, I was real worried about it because the ball went in," Noah said. "I think one of the refs was about to call a block and then he looked at the other ref because he wasn't sure and the other ref, thank God, he called a charge.
"That was a huge play for us. I'm really happy that play went our way, but to me - I think I'm kind of biased -- but to me I thought it was a charge the whole time."