Bulls beat Cavs 86-85, take Central Division lead. Seriously.

Okay, so let me get this straight: After struggling to beat the Michael Redd-less Milwaukee Bucks at home, the Bulls traveled to Cleveland and beat a healthy Cavaliers team that went 40-2 at home last season and features reigning MVP LeBron James and former MVP (and self-proclaimed Most Dominant Ever) Shaquille O’Neal. And, on the final play of the game, the referees swallowed their whistles when LeBron bull-charged his way to the hoop before running into Joakim Noah and losing the ball out of bounds. Really?!


Luol Deng and Noah provided the end-of-game defense on James. Of that last play, Noah said: “I didn’t feel like it was even close to being a foul. I wasn’t worried because there was no contact at all.”

I have to call shenanigans on that, Joakim. There was plenty of contact, much of it initiated by LeBron in the hopes of drawing the foul. But, after allowing James to partially knock Deng out of his way with a shoulder block, the officials overlooked a little body-to-body contact between the MVP and Chicago’s wild-haired center. Game over.

And what a game it was. It was a classic case of winning ugly…and I’m still not sure how the Bulls did it. If you check out the Four Factors of Winning — Effective Field Goal Percentage, Turnover Percentage, Offensive Rebounding Percentage and Free Throw Rate — Chicago actually lost this one:

I guess some the stats dont tell you everything...

I guess some the stats don't tell you everything...

And yet, despite the stats, Chicago won. It’s a mind-scrambler. The Bulls — who still haven’t shot as least 42 percent for a game this season — hit a mere 40.9 percent of their field goals, including 22-for-66 on jumpers and 3-for-10 on threes. On the bright side, they went 12-for-19 on layups. But, clearly, their shooting was nothing to write home about. Unless there’s somebody at home you don’t like.

Did the Bulls win this game on defense? Sort of, although they were aided and abbetted by some U-G-L-Y offensive by the Cavs. Cleveland shot 40.7 percent as a team. And, despite the fact that Shaq was 7-for-13 from the field, he may have been Chicago’s best defender. Why? Because the Big Space-Taker consistently clogged the paint, effectively cutting off the full-steam-ahead drives that are LeBron’s bread and butter on the offensive end. NBA historians might remember this is the same problem that dogged the late 1960s, early 1970s Los Angeles Lakers teams that featured Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. Note that the Lakers didn’t win a title until one of those guys departed (in this case Baylor, who retired right before the 1971-72 Lakers went on a 33-game winning streak).

A Total Team Effort:
While the Cavaliers were out-of-sync for most of the game, everybody on the Bulls chipped in. Deng shot poorly (6-for-16), but he led the team in scoring (15 points), added 7 rebounds, and played fantastic defense on LeBron (with help from Shaq and, later, Noah). Derrick Rose had his first double-double of the season (14 points, 11 assists), and he was on fire in the fourth quarter (10 points — including a pretty sweet floater with 1:44 left — and 5 assists). John Salmons scored 14. Noah led the team in rebounds (11). Rookie Taj Gibson, who still started at power forward despite Tyrus Thomas’ return, almost had a double-double of his own (11 points, 7 boards). Brad Miller (10 points, 2 steals) and Kirk Hinrich (9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and one gash on the chin courtesy of LeBron) made big contributions off the bench. (And the slow-as-mud Miller beat the Cavs frontcourt off the dribble several times down the stretch.) A seemingly still-sick Thomas even logged 12 minutes, contributing 6 points, a rebound and a block.

And that’s the only way the Bulls are going to win this season: if everybody pitches in, every game, every night. As good as Rose is, he’s no LeBron. Chicago cannot be a one-man team.

Overlooked Stat of the Game, Part I:
The Cavaliers have Shaq in the middle. The Bulls have Joakim Noah. And yet, Chicago outscored Cleveland 38-36 in points in the paint. Again, many thanks to Shaq for helping deny LeBron several chances to take it strong to the cup.

Overlooked Stat of the Game, Part II:
In the final 1:02 — with the Cavaliers trailing by one point — Mo Williams got two shots (a missed three-pointer and a missed 10-footer) and LeBron got one (the final missed layup). Do the Cavaliers want Williams getting the crunch-time shots? Absolutely not. Do the Bulls? Absolutely.

LeBron’s Take on the Final Play:
“It’s a call you think you may get,” James said. “I felt a push from Deng and some contact over the top from Noah. Enough to put me on the free throw line? Yes. But that’s a judgment call for the officials.”

Noah’s Take on the Final No-Call:
“No comment.”

TrueHoop Network:
John Krolik of Cavs: the Blog: “As for the last play, there were 4 seconds left, and he went to his highest-percentage play: damn the torpedoes and make a hard, decisive drive. The real issue was that Noah was there waiting for him because we’d parked 320 pounds of a guy who can’t shoot or screen directly under the rim, and Hinrich made a nice rotation down to cut off that pass. Shaq shouldn’t be out there in those scenarios. Period. And no, there was no foul on that play-Noah was in perfect position, and LeBron tried to crash into him out of desperation. Not a pretty play, but at least it happens on November 5th. Get the bad ones done early, I suppose. Yeah, there’s the ticket.”

Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

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18 Responses to Bulls beat Cavs 86-85, take Central Division lead. Seriously.

  1. djbelc01@gmail.com'
    Dan B. November 6, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    Before the detailed write-up, you may as well have just reposted that picture from a few days ago of a pile of bricks. That’d do a pretty good job of summing up this game for people who want just a Cliff’s notes version. Some really ugly shooting percentages from both teams…

  2. sixthman3@hotmai.com'
    Kevin November 6, 2009 at 4:04 pm #

    I know its easy for me to say this as a Bulls fan, but I’m glad the refs didn’t blow the whistle for that final play. Even if you’re someone who thinks that was foul (and I’m not), it’s been so rare in the NBA in recent years that there was a controversial “no-call” that I wondered whether something like that would ever happen anymore.

  3. davidpaulroosa@yahoo.com'
    AK Dave November 6, 2009 at 4:15 pm #

    I was amazed to see the Bulls throw in a lineup of:


    That’s some serious small-ball. Great win for the Bulls; Taj Gibson looked really good-except for the layup he biffed at the end of the 1st half. Also- did Hinrich forget that he was allowed to shoot the ball in the second half? He really needs to take more 3’s. One 3-pt attempt for the whole game (24min of pt)? Hmmm.

  4. jake_vick@hotmail.com'
    Jake November 6, 2009 at 5:34 pm #

    About your analysis of the 4 factors. You are slightly off.

    1. the eFG% is more or less a push. 2.4% is not mush of difference when around 45%.

    2. The lower the TO%, the better the stat. The bulls were effectively 2x better at that tonight. 6.4% is a huge difference between 6.3% and 12.7%.

    3.Cleveland definitely won the OR% and FT rate.

    4. Though Cleveland won FT rate…they shot horribly from the line. Two more FTs made, and we have a different winner.

    So, the four factors was 1 win – 2 losses – 1 push for the Bulls, indicating that Cleveland was more likely to win, not that they would win.

  5. vittoriodezen@gmail.com'
    Vic De Zen November 6, 2009 at 5:37 pm #

    Nice to be able to win ugly against an “elite” team.

  6. Mike November 6, 2009 at 6:07 pm #

    Does anyone else feel like the refs might have not called a foul because the two previous plays were awfully close and favored the Cavs? Those plays being the 24 second violation where it was hard to tell whether the ball had hit the rim or not, and the no call of goal tending despite it also looking awfully close?

    It was nice to see that the refs didn’t bail out Lebron for initiating contact. I was extremely surprised.

  7. tc643@hotmail.com'
    Tony C. November 6, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    A few observations…

    This game pitted the worst and most established overrated coach against the worst young coach in the NBA, and they both demonstrated some of their glaring weaknesses. Why, for example, on earth would VDN not have called a timeout when the Bulls had the ball with (roughly) 27 seconds left in the game? I believe that the Bulls had two timeouts left, and yet VDN sat there, deer-in-the-headlights as usual, and watched his team run out the clock with out getting any sort of decent shot off. They were very lucky to escape with a win under the circumstances.

    I find it remarkable that so many continue to hold out great hopes for Thomas. He has played for two full years in the NBA, yet it is obvious that Gibson, a rookie who has played in a handful of pro games, has a higher B-Ball IQ, and is already a better all-around player. That’s right, he’s better than TT right now. And he’ll improve plenty.

    Did you notice the sequence in which Thomas put the ball on the floor to drive towards the basket not once, but twice in the span of about 30 seconds, and had it slapped away both times? I mean really, how dumb can a professional player be? Gibson may never become a star, but he is already showing the combination of skills, intelligence and desire that should allow him to develop into a valuable player for years to come. He is very active on defense, switches well, is tough to shoot over, has a good shooting stroke, fights regularly for offensive rebounds, etc., etc., etc.

    Salmons has been disappointing thus far, but hopefully he will come around. Rose is obviously still hampered physically, but I’m sure he’ll come around as well.

    Deng is certainly showing some promising signs. Let’s hope he can maintain a consistent level of high-quality play.

    It’s outrageous that the league still allows Shaq to lower his shoulder and ram into defensive players. He did that several times to Noah, and VDN should have been all over the refs to make that call. He wasn’t, so of course they didn’t.

  8. jcguzman2011@gmail.com'
    juan November 6, 2009 at 7:48 pm #

    haha this makes me laugh that the cavs are doing so bad and that we took the central division lead. :)

  9. hkphooey51080@hotmail.com'
    idiots November 6, 2009 at 9:11 pm #

    so you complain when tyrus catches and shoots and then you complain when he tries to attack the lane? which is it? lots of players get stripped when attacking the lane. taj may be a rookie but guess which one is older?

    you drafted tyrus to be a project. he has had 1 full season where he was given starter minutes and now you want to just give up on him after 5 games? skiles NEVER gave him the chance to succeed and even Vinny didn’t last year to a degree.

    i just wish the media and you so called fans would just shut up and actually give the guy a chance to grow into a star. he was drafted as a PROJECT!

  10. sean@rmeg.biz'
    Pharaoh November 6, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    It amazes me how many Tyrus Thomas haters we have in Chicago.

    Here’s a guy who’s had his NBA learning curve stunted by the fact that in his first 2 years – for whatever reason this organization didn’t allow his game to naturally develop. He was drafted essentially 4th overall that year, yet spent the first 2 seasons with little to no improvement on his game – not because of lack of desire or basketball IQ as many would put it, but because this organization really didn’t have the propert tools in place to help cultivate all the “raw talent” and “potential” they raved about on draft night 2005 when we traded for him. Skiles didn’t let him play through his mistakes as all rookies need to do, we didn’t have ONE big man on our roster his first 2-3 years to mentor the boy, and further still prior to this season, the Bulls hadn’t had a big man coach on staff to work with him at all.

    Now, that all three of those things have improved and changed for the better everyone wants to dismiss him as a bust!? It’s 4 years later everyone is ready to run him out of town because we have Taj Gibson. Doesn’t make any sense to me. Let the boy play ball and get off his back and he’ll produce. Tyrus worked just as hard a J-Noah this past offseason, and finally seems like he’s poised to have a decent break out season. If anything, having a solid contributing rookie like Gibson in the fold will only push Tyrus to bring it every night, thus making our team very deep.

    Ease off the Tyrus hate and let’s play this season out before we ship him off. I know Chi-Town is the land of haters, but let’s be smart Bulls fans and recognize what we have here. He’s still a kid, and with a full season – given starters minutes and a big like Miller to help season his game – he could easily contribute 16 and 8 and help this team out tremendously.

  11. Jcguzman2011@aol.com'
    Juan November 6, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    That wasn’t an ugly win it was an exciting game and we won it.

  12. tc643@hotmail.com'
    Tony C. November 6, 2009 at 11:12 pm #

    My comments have nothing to do with “hate”. If you can’t see that TT continues to frequently make bad, often inexcusable decisions, then your aren’t paying attention.

    Basketball has been his LIFE for many years now, he’s been coached for many years, and yet he still makes poor decisions on a regular basis.

    I do believe that he could become a very useful player under the right coach and system, but it’s not likely to happen under the current conditions in Chicago.

    As I mentioned above, Taj Gibson, in sharp contrast, has a fine understanding of the game, as well as his role in it. And even though he doesn’t have quite as much natural ability as TT, he’s already a better all-around player, and will certainly improve further.

  13. droid101@gmail.com'
    Ash November 6, 2009 at 11:43 pm #

    No! Let the Tyrus hate continue! Then the Lakers can pick him up at a discounted rate to come off the bench and learn from Kareem.

  14. Jcguzman@aol.com'
    Juan November 7, 2009 at 1:58 pm #

    The bulls can offer the best talent for lebron. He would have a better chance winning a ring here in Chicago.

    PG- Derrick Rose
    SG- Luol Deng
    SF- LeBron James
    PF- Tyrus Thomas/ Taj Gibson
    C- Joakim Noah

    Kirk Hinrich
    John Salmons
    James Johnson 
    Taj Gibson 
    Brad Miller

    This would be a young team to win many championships!!!

  15. erik.82.morales@gmail.com'
    EAM November 7, 2009 at 5:49 pm #

    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and read to much into this win…there’s still alot of season to play and the bulls haven’t played impressive ball.

  16. wannafanta365@aim.com'
    Wanna Fanta November 7, 2009 at 9:14 pm #

    I am happy to see people realizing the importance of Chicago being a TEAM team, not a ROSE team or a DENG team. I have stated this before, not on Bulls by the Horns, but on FanNation. Anyway, Bulls 09-10! Maybe we can make it past the first playoff round this time.

    Opponent score averages under 90 is good news for Bulls defense. It seems like our stamina is getting better, which is something important for the upcoming game against the Nuggets. Of course, against the Nuggets, we have to watch out for Melo, and remember that this is a high-scoring team. Picking up the defense against them to hold back their scoring will be vital, and so will picking up the offense end to keep up with them. I hope the Bulls do well, but I’m expecting a score similar to this:
    Den: 101 Chi: 94 Something like that. I’ve never predicted the score before, though, so don’t expect much as for accuracy… ;D

  17. felipeagarcia87@hotmail.com'
    felipe garcia November 7, 2009 at 10:22 pm #

    I agree with EAM, let just hope that the Bulls can continue winning these types of road games. So they can caught up to Miami with a better record to impress D-Wade to come back home to Chi-Town! GO BULLS!!!


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