The Cleveland Cavaliers had one of those nights where every kind of crazy shot was falling against the Bulls. The Cavs hit a ton of ridiculous shots and enjoyed hot shooting across their rotation as they took advantage of a number of Chicago’s mistakes and lapses.
Kyrie Irving hit a buzzer-beating three to end the first quarter and beat the shot-clock in the third quarter from 70 feet. J.R. Smith nailed a three to beat the halftime buzzer as he fell out of bounds near half-court.
Smith’s shooting was symptomatic of the kind of night the Cavs had as he hit seven of his first 10 from deep (while taking zero shots inside the arc) and finished 8-17 from deep for 24 points, still with zero two-point shot attempts.
Irving finished with a game-high 27 points and hit four of his five long balls as the Cavs shot a smoldering 42 percent from deep. The Cavs have now won 18 consecutive home games.
Oh yeah, and that LeBron James guy had a triple-double – his first of the season – 20 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
The Bulls, for their part, somehow hung around all game despite the Cavaliers’ incredible shot-making. Aaron Brooks and Mike Dunleavy were the two bright spots for Chicago, finishing with 17 and 24 points respectively.
Despite shooting around 50 percent for most of the game, Chicago consistently dug in and prevented the game from getting away from them when they went down double-digits. On more than one occasion the crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena was on its feet anticipating a big Cleveland run into the distance and on more than one occasion the Bulls would rip off a crowd-silencing streak of baskets.
Once again though, the defense was an inconsistent mess: Three-point shooters were left open; LeBron James was given plenty of space and favorable matchups all night; Chicago put Joakim Noah on Kevin Love on the perimeter while leaving Pau Gasol to box out the massive frame of Timofey Mozgov under the rim.
The offense was still good but not good enough. Nikola Mirotic was a poor 3-12 from the floor and Jimmy Butler not much better at 6-14. Mirotic did hit a pair of late threes as the Bulls threatened to rally, closing the deficit to just five points with 2:49 to play.
However, those final 2:49 were symbolic of the entire night. With the ball and down five, Butler committed a turnover under the basket. The Cavs would score a pair of free-throws on the next possession. Pau Gasol then decided to throw the ball away down seven (their 5th giveaway of the 4th quarter) and again the Bulls gave up points off their turnovers – Cleveland finished with 19 points off 16 Bulls turnovers.
Cleveland is now a virtual lock for the 2nd spot in the Eastern Conference and the loss means the Bulls stay 1.5 games ahead of the Raptors, though the Raptors will have the advantage of being a division winner.
The Bulls finish with a relatively good schedule – at Orlando, at Miami, vs 76ers, at Nets, vs Hawks. The Raptors, however, finish with a similarly light workload with games against Orlando, Miami, Boston and a pair of games against Charlotte.