Cavaliers edge Bulls with late heroics 108-105  
            BY TIM SHIRER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - .The Cleveland Cavaliers (36-17, 19-9 home) nine game winning streak ended on Monday night against the Philadelphia 76ers with a 123-121 loss. On Wednesday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse the Cavs welcomed in the Chicago Bulls (26-29, 11-17 away) for a Valentines Day affair. Cleveland was hoping to get back on track after the loss on Monday.

The meeting was the third between the two teams this season. The Cavs had won the first two (11-23-2023 109-95 in Chicago, 01-15-2024 109-91 in Cleveland). On Wednesday it was a dogfight as the Cavs, who trailed for the first 37:10 of the game pulled out a 108-105 win to head to the All-Star break in second place in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the Boston Celtics.

The Cavs came out sluggish as Chicago jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first 2:17 of the game. Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff quickly used a timeout to gather his troops attempting to get things on track. The timeout seemed to do the trick as over the next 1:58 the Cavs outscored the Bulls 8-5 to pull to within 13-8 with 7:45 left on the first quarter clock. Then with 5:15 left Evan Mobley drained a three on a nice pass from Donovan Mitchell to cut the Bulls lead to 17-13. The Bulls responded by scoring the next seven points to extend their lead to 24-13 with 4:03 left on the first quarter clock. The Cavs turned the ball over three times in the first eight minutes of the game. Former Cav Andre Drummond had eight points in the first eight minutes of the contest. The Cavs cut the lead to 27-20 with 2:10 left when Isaac Okoro drained a three and then to 27-22 with 1:44 left when Mitchell drove the lane scoring with one hand. Less than a minute later the Bulls built the lead back to ten at 32-22 with :51.2 left in the quarter on a Nikola Vucevic layup. The Cavs cut the lead to seven on another Okoro three and the period ended with the Bulls on top 32-25. Coby White led the Bulls with nine first quarter points. Jarrett Allen led the Cavs with eight points. A big factor in the first quarter was hustle as the Bulls throttled the Cavs on the boards 14-7. The Bulls also shot 57% (4 of 7) from three-point range while the Cavs shot only 30% (4 of 13).  

The Bulls started the second quarter like the first quarter by looking like they wanted to be there, and the Cavs did not. Chicago scored the first four points of the period to take a 36-25 lead with 10:21 left until the halftime break. The Chicago lead continued to increase with 7:48 left DeMar DeRozan drove the lane for a layup and was fouled. He hit the free throw and gave the Bulls a 41-29 lead. The Cavs were not awful defensively through the first 18 minutes of the contest but were putrid offensively taking bad shots from long range shooting only 25% (4 of 16) from behind the three-point line. Another concerning part was that Cleveland was getting dominated on the boards with five minutes left in the first half 20-13. The final problem was free throw shooting. With four minutes left in the half the Cavs had only hit 2 of 5 free throws. George Niang cut the Bulls lead to 10 with a layup as he fell to the ground away from the basket with 3:55 remaining in the first half. Mitchell finally cut the Bulls lead under double digits to 46-38 with 2:47 left when he took an Allen rebound the length of the court and dunked it. Then with 1:06 left in the half Mitchell hit Caris LeVert behind the three-point line. LeVert got all net to pull the Cavs to within 49-43 which was the score when time ran out in the second quarter. DeRozan led all scorers with 11 first half points. Mitchell led Cleveland with nine points in the first 24 minutes. Allen and Okoro had eight points apiece. The Cavs were better on the boards in the final minutes of the half but were still trailing the Bulls 23-18 on the glass at halftime. The Cavs were outshot by the Bulls 48% (20 of 41) to 44% (18 of 41). The Cavs had a slight edge in the paint outscoring the Bulls 24-20. Bench points were also nearly even with the Cavs outscoring the Bulls 15-13.

With 10:21 left in the third after a Bulls three second violation the Cavs cut the lead to 51-46 on a layup by Mitchell. Two possessions later with 9:41 left in the third quarter Max Strus hit a three cutting the Chicago lead to 53-49. The lead was cut even further at the 8:59 mark after the Bulls called a timeout, Chicago coach Billy Donovan did not like something and expressed it to the officials and was accessed a technical. After the timeout Mitchell drained the technical foul shot and the Bulls lead shrunk to 53-50. After getting fouled by Vucevic Mitchell hit both free throws to cut the Chicago lead to 55-54 with 7:42 left on the third quarter clock. After the Bulls scored on the other end and a couple of bad possessions by both clubs Mitchell was fouled again by Vucevic and hit them both to once again cut the Chicago lead to 57-56 with 6:59 left. The Bulls then drained two three pointers and built the lead to seven points with 6:28 left. With 5:07 left Cleveland trimmed the Bulls lead to two points at 63-61 when Mitchell drained his second three of the night. The two team traded baskets as the Cavs drew to within two points again. Vucevic hit a three and then at the other end Okoro hit his third three of the night in five attempts to once again cut the Chicago lead to two at 68-66 with 3:54 remaining. With :19.7 left in the quarter White hit a three to extend the Bulls lead to 76-71 when time ran out in the third. Mitchell led everyone in scoring with 21 points. White led the Bulls with 19. The Bulls owned the boards in the third outrebounding the Cavs 16-12 to take a 39-30 advantage on the glass heading to the fourth quarter. What kept the Cavs in the game in the third was five turnovers by Chicago resulting in eight Cavs points.

As the fourth quarter began Okoro hit his fourth three of the game to once again cut the Chicago lead to two points at 76-74 with 11:41. Finally, with 10:40 left in the game LeVert hit Niang with a pass outside the three point arc and Niang drained it giving the Cavs a 79-78 lead, their first lead of the game. However, with 9:57 left the Bulls regained the lead 81-79 on a three by White. The Cavs came right back and took the lead 85-84 after another three by Chicago. With 8:25 left a skirmish broke out between White and Niang after White ran into Niang and thought that it was a dirty play by Niang. It looked like it was a lot of drama by White. After the parties were separated the play was reviewed with the Cavs leading 85-84. The play was determined to be a personal foul on Niang, it was his fourth. Both Niang and White were accessed technical, and the Bulls maintained possession. LeVert then fouled DeRozan. He hit one of two free throws to tie the game with 8:20 remaining in regulation. The Cavs regained the lead 87-85 after a Bulls turnover, Mitchell hit Strus who took it to the other end. The Bulls then tied it at 87-87. But just seconds later Mitchell drove the lane on a layup giving Cleveland an 89-87 lead with 6:42 left in the game. The Bulls called an immediate timeout. After the timeout a weak personal foul was called on Allen as DeRozan drove to the backet with 6:22 left. DeRozan hit both free throws to tie the game 89-89. Allen took care of business at the other end giving the Cavs the lead back 91-89 with 6:00 remaining. After Vucevic scored at the other end to tie the game Allen once again gave the Cavs the lead at 93-91 when he drove the lane on a layup with 5:25 left. Niang then picked up his fifth foul at the other end and DeRozan hit both free throws. After the Cavs did not score on their next possession Niang picked up his sixth foul and was sent to the showers. White, who was fouled hit both free throws giving the Bulls a 95-93 lead with 4:39 left. The Cavs responded with Mitchell at the other end to tie the game 95-95 with 4:18 left. Chicago moved in front again with 3:54 left when DeRozan hit a jumper making the Bulls advantage 97-95. Mobley was fouled by DeRozan with 3:25 left and had a chance to tie the game but could only hit one of two free throws which cut the Bulls lead to 97-96 with 3:25 left. After the Bulls failed to score at the other end Mobley took matters into his own hands hitting a fadeaway jumper in the paint to give the Cavs a 98-97 lead with 2:49 left. Then after a missed shot by Chicago Mobley pulled down the rebound and Mitchell was fouled at the other end. He hit both free throws giving the Cavs a t100-97 lead with 2:18 left. Another academy award performance by White resulted in a foul on Garland. The Oacar nominee was only able to drain one of two free throws to cut the Cavs lead to 100-98. After a missed shot by the Cavs Alex Caruso, another fine acter was fouled pulling down a rebound. The Bulls were in the penalty, Caruso drained both free throws to tie the game 100-100 with 1:38 left. Garland then hit a three to ignite the crowd and give Cleveland a 103-100 lead with 1:14 left. But just :11 later the Bulls tied the game on a three by White. Caruso then committed a foul on Mitchell away from the ball, sending Mitchell to the line with :43.8 left. Mitchell shot one free throw and made it and the Cavs retained possession with a 1-04-103 lead. After a bad pass by the Bulls with :17 the sellout Valentines Day crowd lost their mind with excitement as the Cavs got the ball. Before the Garland and the Cavs could get the ball over the timeline with :11.0 left DeRozan fouled him. The Cavs were now in the penalty and Garland received two shots which he drained giving the Cavs a 106-103 lead. The Bulls took a timeout to chart their next possession. With :07.7 left Struss picked up his fourth personal foul sending White to the line. He hit both, cutting the Cavs lead to 106-105. After the free throws the Cavs took their final timeout. As the Cavs got the ball the crowd of 19,432 went insane. Mitchell was immediately fouled and :04.7 remained on the clock. Mitchell drained both free throws as the crowd chanted MVP, MVP, MVP. Chicago called their final timeout. The Bulls got the inbound pass in to Vucevic and passed it to White who took his eighth three pointer of the night and it bounced off the rim giving the Cavs the 108-105 victory.

White led all scorers in the loss with 32 points. DeRozan also had 24 for the Bulls in a losing effort. Mitchell led the Cavs with 30 points. Okoro had 16 and was 4 of 8 from three point range and played stifling defense once again. Bickerstaff commented after the game, “Isaac was awesome.” He went on to say, “He works his tail off every single day.” Allen had another double double with 13 points and 10 boards. Mobley had 14 points and was one rebound shy of a double double with nine boards. 

The final team totals were close. The Bulls outrebounded the Cavs in the game 44-36, but Cleveland outworked the Bulls on the boards 6-5 in the final 12 minutes. The Cavs outscored the Bulls 52-28 in the game in the paint and 28-8 in the second half which was a huge factor in the win. The Cavs bench also outscored the Bulls 32-18 in the game and 17-5 in the second half.

The Cavs will now enjoy a little bit of rest with the all-star break. Mitchell will be attending the all-star game in Indianapolis as a reserve for the game. He will also take part in the three-point shooting contest. Mitchell will be joined at the festivities by rookie Emoni Bates will participate in the rising stars games. Bates was the Cavs second round pick (49th overall) in the 2023 draft and has split the season between the Cavs and the Cavs G-League affiliate the Cleveland Charge.

The team will be in action next on Thursday, February 22 when the Orlando Magic (29-25, 12-17 away) visit RMFH at 7 pm 
Follow us on Twitter @SportsSentinel Check out our Cavaliers fan page Taitville 
​POSTED 02/14/2024 22:44
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Lake County Sentinel
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Cavaliers play tough defense against the Bulls.                 Photo by Tommy Shirer