Cavaliers pound Bulls 115-92
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - Entering Wednesday night riding a two-game losing streak, the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted a depleted Chicago Bulls team that entered the day with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Looking to stay above .500 and snap their losing skid, the Cavs took advantage of Chicago’s shortened roster.
In the first of four matchups with Chicago this season, the Cavs hammered the Bulls 115-92 in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, snapping Chicago’s four-game winning streak in the process.
“We really wanted to get this one one done,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Our team goes how our defense goes, so our guys know if we want to do the job, we got to be great on that end of the floor. They went out and committed to it. I thought we did a tremendous job guarding two elite players and making them work for everything.”
Chicago (17-9) was without several key players, including DeMar DeRozan, who ranks fourth in the league in scoring (26.4 ppg) this season. DeRozan, Javonte Green, Matt Thomas and Coby White all missed the contest against Cleveland, as they were placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams also missed the game due to injury, allowing the Cavs (14-12) to jump out to a healthy lead early and never look back.
When Chicago’s second-leading scorer, Zach LaVine, sank a turnaround jump shot with 2:41 remaining in the first quarter, the Bulls had a 21-20 lead. From that point forward, Chicago never led again.
The Cavs led 29-24 when the first quarter ended and led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter before taking a 52-43 lead into halftime. The third quarter, though, is where the Cavs blew the game open.
Cleveland opened the third quarter with a 13-8 run, capped by a Lauri Markkanen three-pointer that gave the Cavs a 65-51 lead. Roughly a minute later, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan’s frustration began to show, as he received a technical foul for something he said to the referee. When Cavs power forward Kevin Love drained a three-pointer with 3:58 remaining in the third quarter, Cleveland took its biggest lead of the night to that point, 78-56, and cruised the rest of the way.
“It was a great win for us, I didn’t even think about it that way,” Markkanen said about facing the team he played four seasons for before joining the Cavs this season. “I think we just needed to cut the losing streak. That was our mindset, and we were able to get it done.”
Darius Garland led Cleveland with a game-high 24 points and six assists, while rookie power forward Evan Mobley added 16 points and nine rebounds. Jarrett Allen recorded his eighth double-double in the last nine games, finishing with 13 points, 12 rebounds and four assists against Chicago. Markkanen (14 points), Love (11 points, five rebounds) and Ricky Rubio (11 points, nine assists) also reached double figures in scoring.
“We played well as a team, and that’s who we are,” Bickerstaff said. “If we’re going to be successful, we’re going to have to do it as a unit. The guys know that and they bought into it, and they do it together and it’s every single night. We don’t have the problems of individuals trying to do more. We got a bunch of guys who are bought in and doing it for each other. That’s been consistent for us.”
Leading 104-80 with 4:43 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Cavs emptied the bench and called off the dogs. The 23-point win over Chicago was the second-largest margin of victory for the Cavs this season (26-point win against Miami on Dec. 1).
LaVine, who entered the game averaging 25.9 points per game this season, totaled 23 points and nine assists. Lonzo Ball chipped-in 19 points and seven assists, while Bulls center Nikola Vucevic finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
“That’s who Isaac has to be,” Bickerstaff said about second-year shooting guard Isaac Okoro helping in the effort to hold LaVine below his season scoring average. “Our guys talk about the junkyard dog and that mentality, and that’s who Isaac has to be. He’s got to out-scrap everybody, he’s got to outwork everybody and those effort, energy plays on the defensive end, naturally now guys are looking for him running and want to reward him.”
The Cavs next contest will be in Minnesota against the Timberwolves on Friday at 8 pm.
POSTED 12/08/2021 22:43