Cavaliers embarrassed by Bulls 104-88 
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - The Cleveland Cavaliers returned home from a six-game road trip on Monday for a MLK Day meeting with the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs went just 1-5 on the road trip, but they did add a feather to their cap with the lone victory coming over LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers in the Staples Center.

Sure, James didn’t play in that game as he continues to nurse a groin injury, but in the midst of a season mired in losing, positive moments like securing a win over a James-led team in their house can be enjoyed.

On Monday, the Cavs hosted a matchup between the two teams with the worst records in the league as frigid, single-digit temperatures lurked outside. The Cavs were frigid from the field against Chicago, shooting just 36 percent on the afternoon en route to an embarrassing 104-88 loss to the Bulls.

“It’s a huge challenge, but it’s the NBA,” Cavs head coach Larry Drew said of coming off a long road trip for an early 1 p.m. start against Chicago. “You go back West for the amount of days we did coming off this long road trip and coming back and trying to get back acclimated to the time and having to deal with all the elements...but this is the NBA and it’s a challenge.”

Drew said he expected his players to rise to the challenge, but most of them struggled to find their shot on Monday. The Cavs started slow, trailing Chicago 7-0 more than four minutes into the game. Collin Sexton scored the Cavs’ first eight points, but no other Cavalier registered a point until Cedi Osman sank a layup with 3:48 remaining in the first quarter that brought Cleveland within a 19-10 deficit. Cleveland trailed 31-18 when the first quarter ended, but they made a bit of a run in the second.

By halftime, the Cavs trailed just 48-42, which was closer than the double-digit deficit they experienced throughout much of the afternoon. When the third quarter ended, Cleveland trailed 76-67, but the game got away from them at the start of the fourth quarter, as Chicago opened the final quarter with a 10-0 run to take a commanding 86-67 lead. The young Cavaliers never recovered from the early Bulls onslaught.

While he has had his ups and downs this season, Sexton is quietly having a solid rookie season. Entering Monday, he had scored in double-figures in 40 games this season, which tied for first among all rookies. He ranks first among rookies in free throw percentage (87 percent), fourth in points per game (14.5) and fourth in assists per game (2.9).

Against the Bulls, Sexton led Cleveland with 18 points.

Sexton is also the only Cavalier to appear in all 48 games this season, as the Cavs have been devoured by the injury bug. Cleveland was without Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson, David Nwaba and J.R. Smith (NWT) on Monday, and missing those key players hurt them.

With Thompson and Nance, Jr. out with injury, Cavs center Ante Zizic has been receiving significant minutes. Against the Bulls, Zizic totaled 13 points and nine rebounds.

“I think he’s playing with a lot more confidence than he has been playing as of lately, simply because he’s getting some time now,” Drew said. “And we know with him on the block, we’re very comfortable with throwing him the ball down there, because he does have good footwork. He uses both hands both hands extremely well; it’s just a matter of him getting into real, real playing shape now that he’s one of few big men we have available.”

The Cavs’ bench thrived on the recent road trip, averaging 50 points per game. On the roadie, Cleveland scored 50-plus points four times, 60-plus points twice and 70-plus points once, showing why their reserves average 44 points per game this season, which is the fourth-highest in the NBA. Against Chicago, the bench bunch totaled 42 points.

It was a quick stop for the Cavs at home, as they’ll be in Boston on Wednesday to face the Celtics..
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​POSTED 01/21/2019 21:44
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