After dropping two in a row, including an ugly loss Friday night in Boston, the Bulls went into Cleveland as big underdogs. With Tyronn Lue taking over for recently fired head coach David Blatt, the Cavs were expected to reassert their dominance in a comfortable double-digit victory over the Bulls. Instead, Chicago pulled out an impressive 96-83 win on ABC primetime.
- Derrick Rose continued to play in all-out attack mode. While he didn’t convert as efficiently as he has been lately, Rose got himself plenty of good looks that helped open the floor for the rest of the team. He finished 5/21 with 12 points, but he played much better than his stats.
- Jimmy Butler had another solid performance, notching his customary 20 points and adding nine rebounds. He’s been a beast on the glass lately, always finding ways to contribute outside just scoring. Butler also did a great job on LeBron James, who struggled mightily when guarded by Jimmy but excelled otherwise. James finished with 26-13-9, but he shot poorly and padded his stats when it was too late to count.
- Pau Gasol was the Bulls MVP in this one. He posted 25 points on 11/16 shooting along with 10 rebounds and six assists. Even more importantly, Gasol showed more effort boxing out, playing help defense, and executing offensively. He’s still going to miss a few rotations and throw away a few lazy passes each game, but the Bulls can be a lot better when Gasol holds himself to a higher standard.
- For the first time in a couple weeks, Nikola Mirotic showed some confidence. He drilled three three pointers and added 17 big points in 25 minutes. The Bulls need Mirotic to play like this more consistently; he’s too talented to bury in the rotation. Niko’s ability to drill long-range shots, draw fouls anywhere on the floor, and make plays with the ball in his hand is highly rare for a big man.
- Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were complete nonfactors in this game, though Irving is still working his way back from knee surgery. Love only grabbed five rebounds and was ineffective offensively outside the post. It’ll be interesting to see how Tyronn Lue works Love into the offense more, likely with touches at the elbow. It will be a process, but the Cavs also don’t have a ton of time to make sweeping changes.
- Coming up: the Bulls take on a hobbled Miami Heat team tonight.