Bulls 107, Cavs 96
--This game went south in a hurry for the Cavs and it was plain as day to see why. They played like a bad team plays in the second half, settling for chucking up jumpers on the offensive end and only playing half-hearted defense the other way. It was much like the way they won in New York last night, which is not their style of play. And the Pacers, who they play next, will want to run with them, too. This is a bit of a challenge to overcome. --LeBron had 39 points and he made a lot of crazy shots and that's fine, that's what he does. But he started playing street ball in the second half and that is not his way and it was surprising. All you have to do is look at one thing, his assists. Make that assist. He had one, by far his lowest of the season. He is more than entitled to take jumpers, but when he's forcing shots and just taking jumpers you know he's off. A couple of times he went 1-on-3 in the second half. That is not playing to his standard. Maybe he was tired, maybe he was still thinking like it was outscore those Knicks at the Garden, but he was not himself. No doubt. He knows it, too. He said the collision with Kirk Hinrich in the first half hurt his elbow, which had been bothering him. But that hasn't nothing to do with it in my opinion. --Now, the Bulls deserve credit because they made some shots, which was bound to happen. Also, Joakim Noah wanted it more than anyone. He may respect Ben Wallace, but he also wants to prove he's better and he's probably sick of being compared to Anderson Varejao. So kicked both their butts for good measure. To me, Anderson is really still feeling that ankle. He can't jump. That is a major injury and it will take him awhile to get back and it is showing. Noah is one thing, but Aaron Gray outplayed him tonight. Wallace did OK, but Noah got him over and over too. --Zydrunas Ilgauskas' absence really showed up tonight. Not just with the rebounding issues, but also on offense. When he gets a putback or scores from the post he steadies things. Even when he misses from the post, it rarely leads to a run out at the other end. Since Ilgauskas has been out the Cavs have had streaks of 1-of-15 shooting and, tonight, 1-of-13. He is the Cavs second-best player and missing him is going to sting and tonight it did. Also, after watching Wallace play for six games now, I think he is probably going to be at his best when he is alongside Z. For many reasons, but mostly because it gives him some more freedom. Overall, though, I have not been impressed so far. --Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West's absence from the team has shown up the last two nights, both haven't been very good. West was been nonexistent. Maybe they are also coming down from a bit of an energy high after the trade.
Cavs: Delonte West, Devin Brown, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Anderson Varejao Bulls: Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes, Luol Deng, Drew Gooden, Joakim Noah
--Tyrus Thomas is suspended so Gooden will play a bunch. He has been playing pretty well. The Bulls interior will be a challenge for the Cavs, although not like the Knicks. Varejao doesn't look right to me and Noah, Gooden and Thomas gave him and Wallace all they could handle last weekend. I think Wallace has trouble at this point with active players based on what I have seen and right now Andy can't jump on that bad ankle. He's also wearing a wrap on his left knee. The Bulls activity will get them second shots. --The Cavs defense last night was poor, especially with dribble penetration. The Bulls are a drive-and-kick team, though they are very much a jump shot heavy team. West did a good job on Hinrich and Deng wasn't able to get his mid-range shots on Sunday, but West was not good on defense last night and now the Bulls are at home. --The Cavs schedule in regards to back-to-backs has been brutal, and having the early start (6 p.m.) local after flying in from New York overnight did them no favors. We'll see if there are carryovers.
Halftime -- Cavs 51, Bulls 47 --LeBron has 26 points and has made shots at the buzzer of the first quarter and second quarter. He's 10-of-15. The guy is the two-time defending player of the month and he's just now getting warmed up. Stay tuned. --The Cavs are getting handled on the boards. They tightened it up in the second quarter but the Bulls have 14 second chance points, which is why they are in the game despite shooting just 33 percent. Noah has 11 rebounds and he's eating up Varejao and Wallace. Now that is hard to say because Ben had seven rebounds and Andy has nine, but they are getting beat by Noah. --It has been fun to watch the little stuff. Krik Hinrich and Wally Szczerbiak have been battling away from the ball, at one point Kirk threw Wally down. Then there's the Larry Hughes/LeBron matchup. When Larry gives up a hoop, you can just see how he wants to go down and get a shot. With LeBron, Larry picked his pocket and then LeBron caught him from behind and blocked his shot. A rivalry is being developed here. --As I said Sunday at the half, you must figure that the Bulls will get hot from the outside at some point. They will make a run. Will the Cavs take care of allowing the easy putbacks and transition points to deal with it? We'll see. Then again, maybe LeBron will score 50 again and it won't matter.
Stars Joakim Noah, 13 points, 20 rebounds Ben Gordon, 23 points, six rebounds Luol Deng, 23 points, eight rebounds LeBron James, 39 points
Quotes Mike Brown: "We didn't box out, we just sort of went to the glass. And (Noah) is so long and active and athletic that he just jumped over us." Noah: "I was just on tonight. I just try to do what I can do to help our team win." LeBron: "We need to get back to focusing on defense, we've played pretty good basketball and we don't want this one loss to deter it."