CHICAGO: Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose both struggled in their first head-to-head meeting, but the Bulls outscored the Cavs 10-1 late for a 96-81 victory in Andrew Bynum’s first start Monday night at the United Center.
Coach Mike Brown waited until 20 minutes before tip-off to officially declare Bynum his starter. It was Bynum’s first start since May 21, 2012, when the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs.
Asked Monday morning when Bynum might start, Brown said his minutes limit wouldn’t impact his decision. Bynum played 21 minutes Monday, far less than a typical starter, but it was still a season high for him. So were his 11 points and six rebounds.
“I feel like I prepare for a lot of different things, but a lot of it is going to be on gut feel,” Brown said of when he’d start Bynum. “When my gut feels it, I’ll do it.”
Injuries and illness prevented Irving and Rose from meeting prior to Monday. Irving scored 16 points, but shot just 5-of-18 and didn’t make his first basket until the final minute of the third quarter.
Tristan Thompson had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Dion Waiters had 13 points and six turnovers.
Rose had 16 points and seven assists on 8-of-21 shooting, but had a couple of big baskets in the game’s final minutes. The Cavs pulled within 78-75 on a jumper from Irving with 4:54 left before the Bulls pulled away.
“He’s an established superstar in this league, a former MVP,” Irving said prior to the game. “I have nothing but respect for him. But we’re just going to try and get the win with my teammates.”
Rose was more concerned with improving the Bulls’ 2-3 record than an individual matchup with another point guard.
“He’s a great young player,” Rose said. “Just for me, I try not to get into matchups. Just go out there and just play. If we were winning, I’d probably get into it. But we’re just trying to win games right now.”
Brown said such matchups are fun for fans and the media, but teams don’t get caught up in individual battles.
“It’s a neat story line, but I don’t necessarily look at it like that,” Brown said. “Two good, young players going at it is neat, it’s fun. I’d be excited if I was a fan.”
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