CHICAGO: The Cavs have struggled winning on the road all season, they only recently began struggling in rebounding and they’ve always had problems in recent years beating the Chicago Bulls.
Put it all together and the Cavs lost 100-84 at United Center on Saturday in another game they’ll look back on late this season and see a game they should’ve won.
Despite the Cavs’ involvement in an overtime game Friday, the Bulls’ problems are far greater. They were down three starters in Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler and had lost seven of their last eight games.
They were also missing Kirk Hinrich, who has filled in as a starter, but sat out with a bad back, meaning the Bulls were actually down 3½ starters and missing their two leading scorers and three of their top five. It didn’t matter; they still managed to break 100 points for the first time in nearly three weeks while ending a four-game losing streak.
The Bulls entered 29th in the league in scoring (91.4 points) and shooting (41.8 percent), yet managed to score 33 points in the first quarter and shoot 65 percent to begin the game.
“Defensively we didn’t do much correct in the first half,” Mike Brown said. “We were making up coverages as we were going along and it showed.”
Andrew Bynum had 19 points and seven rebounds, Kyrie Irving had 14 points and five assists and Tristan Thompson had 10 points and seven rebounds, but the Cavs lost for the third time in their last four games and fell to 2-12 on the road this season.
“You keep trying to guess, what is it for us on the road? You have to play with some grittiness on the road, you have to execute your game plan, you have to share the ball and do a lot of little things that equate to team stuff,” Brown said. “We didn’t do any of that starting in the first half with our inability to defend the right way.”
The Cavs now have a new issue to solve: learning how to close quarters well. Over the final five minutes of the first, second and third quarters Saturday, the Cavs were outscored 42-19.
The most egregious was the second quarter, when the Bulls scored 14 of the half’s final 16 points.
Irving’s short jumper pulled the Cavs within 43-39 with 5:47 left in the half, but they went 1-for-8 shooting the rest of the half and turned it over twice. The Bulls went 6-for-8 shooting during that stretch to extend the lead to 58-41, leaving the Cavs to play from far behind the entire second half.
“We got caught out of position a lot,” C.J. Miles said. “When you allow them to start running their stuff like that, they start picking you apart.”
The Cavs trimmed the deficit to 75-65 late in the third quarter and were trying to get it to single digits. They played great defense for an entire possession, forcing a bad shot from Tony Snell at the shot-clock buzzer, but Joakim Noah grabbed the rebound and the Bulls had a new clock.
Snell finished the possession with a big 3-pointer, and after a miss by Bynum, Snell sank another 3 to push the Bulls’ lead to 16, effectively ending any chance at a Cavs comeback.
Noah had 18 rebounds and the Cavs were outrebounded for the fourth time in their last five games.
The Cavs were without Anthony Bennett, who did not make the trip because of an illness, and Dion Waiters, who sat with a sore right wrist. Waiters tried warming up prior to the game but was scratched shortly after walking onto the court to test the wrist.