Note-A-Bulls: Bulls Bench Bests James and the Cavaliers

Bulls. Cavs. In Cleveland. LeBron. Wade. Kyrie (okay, no Kyrie). Love (okay, no Love). Rondo (okay…. no Rondo). But LeBron! And Wade! Okay, they were both a bit under the weather. It wasn’t quite the blockbuster that was hyped – the first time these two cities have faced off since the World Series – but the Bulls have a history of beating LeBron James’ teams during the regular season and tonight was no different, as the Bulls improved to 18-18 with a 106-94 victory, giving the Cavs their 8th loss of the season, and only their 3rd at home. This is the fifth time the Bulls have bested the Cavs in two years.

  • Out: Kyrie Irving (hamstring), Kevin Love (illness), Rajon Rondo (sucking)
  • In: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James (“flu-like symptoms”)
  • The Bulls started the game down 15-2 and it looked like they were just going to get steamrolled. But the bench had other ideas. They helped them climb back in it for a six point halftime lead. In the first half, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott combined for 26 points on 10/14. Dougie McBuckets on his own was a perfect six for six in that first half, three for three from deep, with 15 points in the second quarter alone. Meanwhile, the starters had just 22 points on 10/28.
  • Part of what got the Bulls back in this game and helped them build the lead (as large as 17) was ball sharing. They rarely had possessions that were owned by one player, save for a couple of Wade/Butler instances. The Bulls assisted on 23 of 41 field goals, which is about their average for the season, but that 36 point second quarter saw the ball hopping around and finding good shots.
  • The offense did a great job working through their 4’s and 5’s, and Taj Gibson was the main beneficiary of it, having himself quite a nice game with 18 points on 9/10 shooting and seven boards to boot. But should the Bulls trade him? Great piece by our former colleague Jake Weiner.
  • The Bulls three point shooting was in full gear tonight. They’ve been atrocious this year, last in the league in both points scored per game and three point field goal percentage by a long shot. However, they didn’t seem to care tonight, like, really at all. They shot 30 three pointers and made 13 of them. If Jerian Grant wasn’t chucking, and the Butler waste-three at the end of the game didn’t count (okay, I know they do, but still), it would improve to 12/25 – three from Jimmy Butler, three from Wade, three from Dougie and three from Threekola. That’s fun stuff right there. I don’t care who you are. Now, if they can just get MCW to stop shooting threes…

  • Although Butler had an off night, he came through in a big way in the fourth quarter with ten straight points. One particular sequence with about six and a half minutes to go in the game was especially crucial. With Cleveland closing to within one point, Butler took a charge on LeBron, hit a three, altered a shot at the rim on defense, nailed a jumper, and then got to the line the following offensive possession, all in the span of about a minute and a half. Momentum, Bulls.
  • Fortunately for the Bulls, James would not have his own “flu game.” He did have a typical LeBron game though, at 57% from the field with 31 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, but he also had five turnovers and couldn’t make up for the production loss from missing Irving and Love. He also had the worst +/- on the team (-13) but probably more of a function of being on the court for the most amount of time than anything else (36 minutes).
  • UP NEXT: The Bulls host Toronto on Saturday. The Cavaliers begin a road trip in Brooklyn on Friday.

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