As Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said after thegame, this was a good, old-fashioned butt whipping…
…with the Cleveland as the butt and Chicago starring as the steel-toed boot.
The Bulls jumped on the Cavaliers early and often — leading 32-16 after 12 minutes and 60-35 at the half — and they were dominant in almost every phase of the game.
To wit: The Bulls shot a white hot 63.8 percent from the field and compiled 34 assists on 44 field goals. They outscored the Cavaliers 48-36 in the paint and 15-11 in fast break points. They got to the line 30 times and won the rebounding battle 41-33.
Kirk Hinrich was limited to 17 minutes due to foul trouble but still played really well (3-for-4 from the field, 3-for-4 from the line, 9 points, 6 assists, 0 turnovers and a plus-minus score of +21.
Even more impressive was Nate Robinson, who logged 27 minutes in relief and finished with 16 points (7-for-9), 12 assists, 5 rebounds and a steal. Did the Bulls really sign this guy for the veteran’s minimum? He’s been a steal so far. His energy and enthusiasm have been off the charts, and his play has been top notch.
If only he was a few inches taller. But I digress.
The Cavs started to show a flickering sign of life early in the third quarter, but Rip Hamilton single-handedly snuffed their sputtering flame. Hamilton shelled Cleveland with a 14-point quarter and finished with a co-team-high 19 points on an efficient 8-for-12 shooting. He really looked like the Rip of old, moving without the ball, drilling shots off picks and screens.
Said Hamilton: “In the third quarter, I decided to get a little more aggressive. Some dude in the crowd called me old. That’s what woke me up. He called me Old Man River. So I said, ‘All right, I got something for you.'”
He sure did. Rip shot 7-for-8 in that third quarter.
Then there was Carlos Boozer. He also scored 19 points on similarly blistering shooting (7-for-11). He scored in the point, he scored from mid-range, he scored with his right hand, he scored with his left. Boozer added 7 boards and 6 assists for good measure, and he continued to show excellent chemistry with frontcourt mate Joakim Noah (10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals).
All that and the Bulls got solid contributions from reserves Taj Gibson (8 points and 6 rebounds), Marco Belinelli (8 points on 3-for-4 shooting), and Jimmy Butler (8 points on 3-for-4 shooting and 4 rebounds).
The Bulls were so overpowering that Luol Deng (14 points, 5-for-8, 5 boards) played only 31 minutes…and Marquis Teague and Vladimir Radmanovic even got some burn.
(As an aside: Teague is fast. We need to see more of this kid. But he’s a rookie, so we probably wont.)
Said Hamilton: “When you have guys at every position who can score and make the right play, it puts pressure on the defense at all times. It keeps the floor spaced. Guys are scared to help. We did an excellent job of sharing the ball and making the easy play.”
This was classic Tom Thibodeau basketball: Hard-nosed defense combined with unselfish and opportunistic offense.
Speaking of defense, the Bulls held Kyrie Irving to 6-for-15 shooting and a game-worst plus-minus score of -21. Irving finished with as many turnovers as assists (4 each).
Stat of the Night:
The Bulls are now 2-0 for the first time since the 2002-2003 season.
Quote of the Night:
Robsinson on Hamilton’s third quarter eruption: “A blind man could have seen [that Hamilton had the hot hand]. You just kept hearing his name. ‘Rip Hamilton. Rip Hamilton. Rip Hamilton.’ He got us going.”