In their second game as the “new-look” Bulls, Jimmy Butler and company faced the Cleveland Cavaliers without Superstar LeBron James. With their recent trade of Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, the Bulls started Bobby Portis and Jerian Grant, alongside Butler, Wade and Lopez. Both teams got out of the gate extremely slow, missing many of their first shots from the field but the Bulls were able to keep it close and play neck and neck with Cleveland for the first half. A hot shooting night from 3pt-land and a depleted Cavaliers team allowed the Bulls to come out of Cleveland with a win, their 3rd against the Eastern Conference favorite this season.
- The shorthanded Cavaliers looked beatable tonight without their entire Big 3, especially early on in the game.
- 4 ½ minutes into the game the Bulls were shooting 31.3% from the field, and the Cavaliers were shooting 35.7%, prompting announcer Jeff Van Gundy to want to leave the game early.
- The Bulls came into tonight last in 3pt field goal percentage and 3pt field goal attempts, and completed a season high tonight of 15 made 3 pointers in the game.
- In their second game without sharp-shooter Doug McDermott, the Bulls shot a surprising 50% from behind the arc with the help of rookie Denzel Valentine, newcomer Cameron Payne and the continued great play from Jimmy Butler, who finished with a triple double (18pts, 10reb 10asts).
- I am still trying to figure out the Bulls plan with Valentine. A month ago, Valentine was between the D-League and the NBA, and I wrote that if he couldn’t crack this version of the Bulls roster, there wasn’t really much hope for him moving forward. However, it seems with the trade of Taj Gibson, Valentine will get that consistent chance he’s been waiting for. With Portis continuing to struggle, and after a 15-point game last night, Valentine finished with 11 points from the field tonight, 3-5 from distance, including two big threes in the 4th quarter to put the game away. It was nice to see him actually given a chance out on the floor and to see him deliver efficient results.
- It was the Bulls bench that carried them in the first half, accounting for 21/35 points at the 7:58 mark in the 2nd quarter.
- Newly acquired guard Cameron Payne made his Bulls debut and finished with 6 points on two 3 pointers. He looked a little uncomfortable bringing the ball up the floor, but was confident shooting. It should be interesting to see how the Bulls use him moving forward, as there is a logjam at the point guard position.
- Former Bull Kyle Korver was quick to impress again, finishing 4/7 from 3pt land and 14 points. He now is 5th all-time in NBA history for most 3 pointers made in a career, just passing Vince Carter and Jamal Crawford. Korver will be remembered as one of the premier 3-pt shooters in NBA history, yet I still look at his time with the Bulls as a disappointment, as they never were able to run plays for him effectively, never able to get the looks he got tonight from the field.
- At the half, the Bulls, playing one of their better halves of the year besides a few defensive lapses, found themselves down 56-55.
- The second half showed consistency for the Bulls. They were able to take advantage of a Cavaliers team that is now 0-9 when playing with only 1 of their 3 stars.
- However, their star that did suit up, Kyrie Irving, finished the night with 34 points, an impressive showing.
- To note: Former Mavericks Guard Deron Williams will be signing with Cleveland for the remainder of the season, adding another scoring piece to Lebron’s arsenal.
- A clock malfunction at the end of the 3rd quarter allowed Rajon Rondo’s buzzer beater to count, giving them an 89-76 lead and by the 9:14 mark in the 4th, they were up 20 points, 98-78.
- New Bulls Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Antony Morrow (DNP) did not see the floor in the second half, as Fred Hoiberg went the rest of the half with his normal rotation.
- Unlike last night, Hoiberg decided to stick with Nikola Mirotic down the stretch vs. Denzel Valentine, a questionable decision in my opinion. While Mirotic finished the night with 14 points, and had a big 3-pointer at the end of the game to put it away, he was still only 2/5 from 3 and chose not to box out on a missed free throw by Christiano Felicio, again giving more reason to question his on-the-court commitment that we hear about in media reports.
- This article cannot be complete without mention of Dwyane Wade. After his “poster” of a dunk last night, he continued to turn back the clock, finishing with 20 points, including some nice slashes to the basket and vintage step-back jumpers.
In my eyes, for the first time this season, the Bulls played a full 4 quarters. They were up for the challenge of a road-trip to Cleveland and proved that they still have some fight in them this season. While many of us are hoping they are just good enough to stay out of the playoffs and get that lottery pick, it was encouraging to see good play from young talent. While I don’t cheer often watching this team, I enjoyed seeing a Denzel Valentine 3-pointer swish through the net at a pivotal movement in the game. The rest of the season is about development and seeing what you have in young talent moving forward. While I do not think they did enough at the trade deadline, freeing up the rotation ever so slightly, to now give newcomer Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant and Denzel Valentine an actual opportunity allows the Bulls to actually be watchable. While it may not be pretty at times, these kids have to play to see how you can build for the future.
A funny ending is always nice when you can walk away with a win. Dwyane Wade was a rebound away from a triple double; when Jimmy Bulter swiped away the Cavaliers missed shot to ensure his own triple double. The next possession as the horn sounded, the Cavaliers missed again, Wade jumped to grab the rebound, all alone under the basket, and Christiano Felicio knocked it out of his hands out of bounds as time expired. All Wade could do was smile and succumbed to the fact that Felcio denied him of as he put it, “greatness.”
- Up Next: the Bulls look to keep their winning streak alive as they take on the Denver Nuggets at the UC on Tuesday.