Bulls 101, Cavs 98
--I hearby nominate Ben Wallace's dunk attempt with 2:30 left in the loss to the Bulls as the symbolic moment of the Cavs season. Ahead by two points, it might've given the Cavs key separation. It was right in front of the Bulls bench and the crowd was ready to explode, which probably would've forced a timeout. Instead, somehow, Wallace ran into the rim on the way up. It was shocking. It looked like such a lock, the sound crew at Quicken Loans Arena had already started playing their Big Ben chime but it had to be cut off in mid-dong. This season so many times everything looked it was set up only for the execution to fail. --This was the first game the Cavs had everybody available since mid-Janauary (except Eric Snow, but he is not a rotation player anymore). But it turned out not to last. LeBron James hurt his lower back in the third quarter and couldn't sit down during the fourth. After the game he said it limited him during the fourth quarter when he scored only one point as the Bulls zoomed past. He wasn't sure how he'd feel by Saturday afternoon. Although, I must say I thought Thabo Sefolosha did a quality job on LeBron down the stretch, staying close to him yet working through pick-and-rolls so as not to let him get a corner. --Delonte West made three defensive plays in the last two minutes and two of them were good. He got a steal when he got his hand in the passing lane while helping on Joakim Noah. Then he drew a charge as Ben Gordon tried to drive past him. However, running over Gordon as he took a 3-pointer with 1:42 left was a bad mistake. That is the sort of stuff that costs games. Gordon is a 90 percent free throw shooter. --In the second half two things happened to the Cavs. First, they allowed the Bulls to get too comfortable in their drive-and-kick game. Primarily Daniel Gibson was abused because he couldn't keep anyone in front of him. Larry Hughes, Luol Deng and Gordon were all hot and when that happens the Bulls usually win. Second, they stopped pushing the ball in transition. They had zero fastbreak points in the second half and just nine free throws. That combination spelled doom. --Hughes was strong tonight and he deserves credit. Most impressive to me was how committed he was to running the offense, he had nine assists and made a lot of good decisions with the basketball. If he did that more with the Cavs instead of taking spot up jumpers he would've been much more valuable. As for him going 11-of-17 shooting, he had one of his nights. He'd been shooting 37 percent with the Bulls, worse than he was with the Cavs. --It is a mystery when Gibson truly will be able to get back on his feet. He is just 4-of-17 since coming back and it is obvious he is not 100 percent. I know that Mike Brown wants to create a rotation and stick to it and I respect him for that decision. But again, I believe Damon Jones should be getting chances. He has made shots all season long and he runs the offense better than Gibson does. I understand Gibson is hurting, that must be accounted for. At midseason on the last shot, I'd have said Gibson was about 75 percent. Now, you can just see his balance is off because of that foot. --When the Cavs were struggling to score late, I question having Wallace and Anderson Varejao on the floor together. If not Zydrunas Ilgauskas then Joe Smith needs to be out there. It just makes the Cavs too easy to guard. Especially tonight because after Andy threw a bunch of stuff in last night he started thinking he could make post moves and one-handed bounce passes in the lane and whatnot tonight. That said, Wallace had three blocks, three steals, and eight rebounds and took charge. It was a quality effort.
Bulls: Krik Hinrich, Larry Hughes, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah Cavs: Delonte West, Devin Brown, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Dan Crawford, Matt Boland, Courtney Kirkland
--Ben Wallace is going try to play again tonight. He told the Bulls media he'd actually been dealing with a pitched nerve in his bad, which we had not been told about. We were told it was a strain and spasms. Maybe it is all the same, I don't know. Considering it is the Bulls, you know he wanted to. --Last time the Cavs played the Bulls Joakim Noah shamed Andy Varejao. Ilgauskas did not play in that game. Let's see if the tables turn tonight. --Drew Gooden won't play with a abdominal strain. He doesn't like to miss games, so you know he is hurting. --The Bulls are a jump shot team. The Cavs need to keep them off the offensive glass and rotate to contest shots. If they do, they will have an excellent chance to win. Chicago can get hot from the outside but it usually doesn't last. Which is why Larry Hughes fits in so well.
Halftime -- Cavs 55, Bulls 45
--The Cavs went on a nice 12-1 run late in the first half to build themselves a lead. Though the Bulls have done some nice passing to get guys open around the rim at times, overall the Cavs have been pretty aggressive on defense. The Bulls were a little hot early and then they cooled off a bit. Ben Gordon, Larry Hughes and Luol Deng are a combined 14-for-21 and the Cavs still have a 10-point lead. They have also forced 12 turnovers. --The offense has been pushing the ball well tonight, wanting to keep the Bulls from setting up. It has resulted in some ugly fastbreaks -- West made a couple decisions I am still scratching my head on -- but that has allowed them to get some easy shots and forced a lot of fouls. The Cavs have 17 free throws to the Bulls' 10. The turnovers have made it easier. --Ben Wallace has been pretty solid in the first half. He blocked two shots, took a charge and has three baskets. When he is playing next to Z it seems like he can be effective. --Other than a couple impressive layups in traffic it didn't seem like LeBron had a special half, yet he ended up with 18 points. A large reason is he got to the foul line seven times by attacking, especially in transition. --West has seemed to improve his floaters in the lane since coming to the Cavs, I didn't know that was part of his game before he came here. I do know he's been working on them a little bit with Cavs development coach Chris Jent.
Stars Hughes, 25 points, nine assists, eight rebounds Gordon, 24 points James, 33 points, five rebounds Ilgauskas, 23 points
Quotes Hughes: "That definitely felt good. We want to win for bragging rights if nothing else." LeBron: ""If you ask anybody how bad (a back injury) is for me, being the explosive type of player I am, it's tough to do some of the things I wanted to do."
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