The Bulls won their third game in a row and stayed perfect in 2013 with a blowout win over the Cavaliers.
Chicago lost the first quarter 30-22 and then outscored Cleveland 96-62 the rest of the way. The Bulls — who scored at least 30 points in the final three quarters — established season-highs in points (118), points per 100 possessions (125.5) and tied season-bests in field goals (44), assists (34) and three-pointers made (10).
The win allowed the Bulls (19-13) to stay a teeny-tiny step ahead of the Indiana Pacers (20-14) for the Central Division lead.
Almost everybody played well. Carlos Boozer led the team in scoring again (see below). Luol Deng had a hyper-efficient shooting night (7-for-12 from the field, 2-for-2 on threes, 3-for-3 from the free throw line) and had an all-around great game (19 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals). Joakim Noah had another double-double (11 points and 11 boards) to go with 4 assists and 4 blocked shots. Kirk Hinrich went 2-for-3 on three-pointers.
The bench also played great, especially Taj Gibson (18 points, 8-for-9, 7 rebounds, +23), Marco Belinelli (15 points, 5-for-8, 5 assists, +24) and Nate Robinson (14 points, 5-for-8, 7 assists, +24). In fact, the Bulls turned around their slow start only after those three checked in the game. They turned things around in Chicago’s favor and the team never looked back.
The Bulls dominated the paint. They outrebounded the Cavaliers 47-31 and tied a season-high with an Offensive Rebounding Percentage of 44.4 percent. Given their all-around hot shooting, allowing the Bulls to rebound nearly half of their misses was catastrophic to the Cavs.
Speaking of hot shooting, Chicago was 44-for-82 from the field (53.7 percent), a sizzling 10-for-14 from three-point range (71.4 percent) and 20-for-24 from the foul line (83.3 percent).
The three-point shooting was ridiculous. Belinelli (3-for-4), Deng (2-for-2), Hinrich (2-for-3) and Robinson (3-for-4) couldn’t miss.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “We’re taking the right (3s). They’re in rhythm now, that’s the big thing. It’s off ball movement, hitting the paint, coming out, the extra pass.they’re rhythm 3s.”
Extra passing. Exactly. According to Hoopdata, the Bulls assisted on nine of their 10 made threes. In all, Chicago had 34 assists on 44 made baskets, which is a pretty good percentage.
The looks were coming open and uncontested thanks to the renewed emphasis on inside play. And make no mistake, the Bulls were aggressive in attacking the basket. They attempted an outstanding 43 shots at the rim and had more makes from that distance (27) than the Cavaliers attempted (25).
Player of the Game:
Carlos Boozer. He scored a team-best 24 points while shooting 8-for-16 from the field and 8-for-8 from the line. He also added 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and one blocked shot. It was his fifth straight double-double and 17th in 32 games. Only David Lee, Dwight Howard, J.J. Hickson and Zach Randolph have more double-doubles. And Boozer has more of them than LeBron James, Anderson Varejao, Tyson Chandler, Omer Asik or Blake Griffin.
This has been Boozer’s best three-game stretch since December of 2010 when he had 30-10, 26-19 and 31-11 in three straight road games.
Said Thibs: “He is playing very well. We are feeding off him. We have been able to establish in the post, that is very important for us. Carlos is making a lot of good plays and his teammates are searching him out.”
Added Gibson: “Booze has been dominant. Dominant. Calling for the ball, being real physical, the way he’s capable of doing. Just attacking the rim and he’s been very vocal as far as giving guys encouragement even when guys mess up. He’s been doing everything; playing solid D, hustle plays … challenging the rim on defense, he’s been doing everything great. In practice, pushing and motivating guys, he’s doing what he needs to do.”
Boozer is becoming the offensive anchor the Bulls need with Derrick Rose out and the scoring option management hoped he would be when they signed him to that big contract three years ago. He’s also had some of his best defensive efforts since coming to Chicago over the past few games. And his hustle dive and pass to Gibson in the win over Miami may have been the play of the game.
Credit Boozer’s talent and hard work…and also credit his professionalism. He has endured bitter criticism from fans and constant rumors that the team may plan to use the amnesty provision to shed his contract. He has been benched repeatedly in the fourth quarter and at times ignored as an offensive option. Yet Boozer has never complained. Never drawn attention to himself. Never distracted. Never done anything but stay prepared and encourage his teammates whether on the court or from the sidelines.
Boozer genuinely likes his teammates. And the feeling is mutual.
Said Boozer: “We jell. We work hard together. We hang out together. It’s like a college team, man. We all ride for each other when everybody do well. Games like this are fun because everybody played so great. We like moments like this. We wish all the games could be like this.”
The Bulls have now won 11 straight against the Cavaliers.
Said Cleveland coach Byron Scott: “They’ve just got our number. They feel very confident and comfortable playing against us. From a physical standpoint they’re just much more physical and aggressive than we are right now.”
The Bulls also improved to 11-1 this season with both Boozer and Noah have double-doubles.
Points of Mild Concern:
The Cavaliers scored 19 fast break points. Those are a lot of points to surrender in transition even in a blowout win.
Chicago committed 20 turnovers. Although, on the bright side, the team gave up only 12 points off those turnovers whereas the Cavs surrendered 23 points off their 16 turnovers.
The Bulls also shot poorly in every zone that wasn’t “at the rim” or “beyond the arc.” They went 0-for-2 from 3-9 feet, 1-for-5 from 10-15 feet, and 5-for-15 from 16-23 feet.
The Bulls played up to their potential and walloped an inferior team.