On a chilly Friday night on the west side of Chicago, over twenty-thousand packed into the United Center to see the Bulls and Cavaliers square off for a key division game. As promised, LeBron James filled his half of the bet with Dwyane Wade and came to the UC in a full Cubs uniform. Both teams were coming off losses in their most recent match-ups, looking to regain momentum.
The teams assembled on the court, the Cavs sporting their all blue jerseys, and the Bulls in an atypical grey sleeve jersey. It was Tristian Thompson and Robin Lopez at center court, Lopez won the tip, and Bull basketball was on the air nationwide.
The first six minutes of the opening quarter were no different from how the Bulls typicalls begin games. A complete back and forth battle, with Taj Gibson starting off very strong. Taj had six points and three rebounds within the first six minutes of play. At the 6:07 mark, the Bulls had a one point lead as Wade hit a driving layup while going hard to the rim. The first quarter continued to march on, and the see-saw battle continued to progress. The typical subs made their way in, and after one the Cavs had a slim lead of 33-30.
The Cavs began the second quarter with an Iman Shumpert shot that wouldn’t go from twenty-one feet out, and the Bulls capitalized on the following possession with Jerian Grant hitting a routine layup. Then the King made his way back onto the court. After Grant hit the layup, the Cavs led 33-32. James returned to the court, and led the Cavs to go on a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 40-32 at the ten-minute mark. However, the Cavs did not let the stoppage of play break their momentum. Channing Frye hit a big three to keep the Cavs lead at eight, with the score 47-39. However, after that three, the Bulls found their gear again. They were able to cut the Cavs lead to as small as one as the score was 54-53 after Lopez hit a short-range jumper. Just under one minute to go in the half, Taj Gibson got one of the biggest gift fouls that one will ever see. Kevin Love pretty much “Love tapped” his chest, and Taj laughingly went to the free throw line. The first half ended with a very high score, Taj Gibson continuing to lead the Bulls with eighteen points. Through two it was Cleveland 60, the Bulls 59. The Bulls were 0-7 from downtown, while the Cavs were shooting nearly fifty percent from three. However, this was promising considering that the score was only 60-59.
LeBron inbounded the ball to Kyrie Irving to begin the third, with Irving drilling a mid-range jumper. The Bulls continued to claw with the leaders of the East, as both teams came out strong to begin the third. They looked like they were slowly picking of some momentum, as they led by eight at the 7:30 mark and the Cavs had gone cold. Jimmy G. Buckets and Wade were hitting their stride as they had combined for twenty-five points. The Cavs took a timeout at the 5:45 mark after Robin Lopez hit a sky-hook turnaround shot, and the Bulls continued to keep their eight-point lead. As usual, a timeout proved to work well. Kevin Love drilled a three to start the Cavs next possession, and the Bulls lead was cut to five. The next possession was crucial, as the Bulls needed an answer. Rajon Rondo, out of all players, splashed a three for the corner and the lead was back to eight at just over three minutes left. With under two minutes to go in the third, Nikola Mirotic threw a floater to the rim and Jimmy Butler volleyball tapped the ball right into the basket. After three, the shootout continued, as the Bulls led 88-80. Taj leading Chicago with twenty-one points and nine rebounds, and LeBron leading the Cavs with twenty-three points and eight assists.
The Bulls began the fourth with a missed jumper by Wade from seventeen feet out. In the following possession, LeBron added to his assist total and found Channing Frye for an easy layup. The Bulls continued to maintain the sizable lead with excellent offense and good ball movement. Until (of course), Rajon Rondo made a poor pass and the Cavs capitalized on the fast break and hit a three to cut to the lead back to five. With just under six minutes to go, the Bulls struggled to close the door. However, after shooting 0-7 to start the game, Niko hit a little floater in the paint to put the Bulls back up seven. With just over two minutes to play, LeBron committed his third turnover in the quarter, and the Bulls were able to extend their lead to eight. ON THE NEXT POSSESSION, JAMES COMMITTED ANOTHER TURNOVER. Following that, the Bulls played perfect defense to force a shot clock violation. After a bit of scare within the final fifteen seconds, the Bulls were able to hang on and win 111-105.
With the win, the Bulls improved to 11-6. Not only is it nice to see the win-loss column have a plus margin of five, but this win over the Cavs must serve as a big momentum builder for Chicago. To get a win against a team that has had a chokehold on you for such a long period of time has to inspire the Bulls at least in some manner. However, the Bulls have hardly any time to bask in the victory. Once everyone is ready to leave the UC, the Bulls will hop on the charter and head to Dallas to take on the struggling Mavericks tomorrow night.