Entering the post all-star portion of the 2015-2016 NBA schedule, there were only two teams that have beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers twice this season. One is the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors. The other is the Chicago Bulls. Cleveland lost in Chicago on opening night. The Bulls also spoiled the head coaching debut for Tyronn Lue on January 23 in Cleveland.
Thursday night, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cavaliers ended the Bulls two game winning streak against them with a convincing 106-95 win in front of a sold out Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavaliers have now won four straight games. The Bulls, who were without Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic have now lost five straight games.
Cleveland won the game thanks to good starts to the first, second and third quarters. Cleveland only trailed for 18 second in the first quarter when Chicago scored the first basket of the night by Derrick Rose. Cleveland would start the game on a 10-4 run and would take a 26-19 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Cavaliers would stretch their lead in the first half to as much as 17 points thanks to a 12-4 run to start the second quarter. Chicago would rally back to end the half on a 16-5 run of their own to only trail by six points at halftime 48-42.
The Cavaliers came out hot shooting the basketball in the third quarter after struggling after halftime in games right before the all-star break. Cleveland would go on a 13-4 run to get their lead back up to 15 points. The Bulls would never mount another comeback the rest of the way en route to the eleven point victory.
James finished just a rebound and an assist short of another triple double. James had a team high 25 points to go along with nine rebounds and nine assists on eleven of 19 shooting. Irving struggled shooting the basketball after being off for the last eight days. Irving was just six of 18 from the field to finish with 19 points and four assists. J.R. Smith’s shot was still on the all-star break. Smith was just one of nine shooting. Smith’s only basket was a three pointer for his only three points on the night. Smith did add four assists and two rebounds.
Tristan Thompson was a big factor in the first half. Thompson picked up another double double with 16 points and ten rebounds. 12 of Thompson’s 16 points came in the first half as he took advantage of the depleted Bulls roster up front. Love also had a good game down low. Love finished with a double double of his own with 15 points and 15 rebounds.
Timofey Mozgov played well in the first game since the NBA trade deadline passed on Thursday afternoon. Mozgov was one of a few names being rumored to be on the move over the last few days leading up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. Mozgov had eleven points and seven rebounds as Cleveland played a big man down following the trade of Anderson Varejao to the Portland Trail Blazers in a three deal that brings six foot eleven stretch power forward Channing Frye to the Cavaliers from the Orlando Magic. Frye could make his Cavaliers debut on Sunday afternoon when the Cavaliers travel to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder in a nationally television contest on ABC.
Rose lead all scorers with a game high 28 points, but had very little support from any of his teammates. Pau Gasol had 14 points, nine of those coming in the third quarter. Gasol was a key in both Chicago victories earlier this season against the Cavaliers. Rookie Bobby Portis was the only other Bull to score in double figures. Portis had 13 points off the bench