The Cavaliers came into Wednesday’s game against the Bulls on a five-game winning streak and 1.5 games behind Chicago for the top spot in the East.
The Bulls were without Lonzo Ball(knee) and Zach LaVine(knee), but they had DeMar DeRozan, who scored 16 of his game-high 30 points in the second quarter, and Nikola Vucevic, who had 24 points and 12 rebounds as Chicago defeated Cleveland 117-104 at United Center.
Cleveland’s (27-19) five-game winning streak, which was the longest current streak in the NBA, is over, while Chicago(28-15) snapped their four-game losing streak.
Here is the Great, Not So Great, and Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Bulls.
The Great for the Cavaliers:
-Lauri Markkanen returned to Chicago and did everything in his power to lead the Cavaliers to victory. Markkanen had a season-high 28 points, including 5/9 from deep. He also added seven rebounds and a block.
-Evan Mobley had another game where he did it all. The rookie had 18 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Mobley, who scored in double figures for the 13th straight game, was the only player for the Cavs that had a positive rating(+5).
-One thing that was a constant during the Cavs five-game winning streak was Darius Garland’s double-doubles. Garland had 20 points, five rebounds, and 12 assists against the Bulls. This was Garland’s third straight double-double and fifth double-double in the last six games. In those six games, he averaged 20.7 points, 12.5 assists, and 5.8 rebounds.
The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:
End of the Second Quarter: After a Garland three gave the Cavs a 46-44 lead with just under five minutes to go, Chicago went on a 14-3 run to close the quarter. The Bulls led 58-49 at halftime.
End of the Third Quarter: Following a Garland fadeaway jumper that cut Chicago’s lead to 78-74 with just under four minutes to go, Chicago went on a 7-0 run to go up 11. Again, the Bulls would end the quarter up nine(87-78).
End of the Game: Cleveland trailed 103-102 with 4:18 to go in the game. From there, they would get outscored by Chicago 14-2, and the Bulls would win 117-104.
Defense: The Cavs had a forgettable defensive performance against the Bulls. They allowed 117 points(58 points in the paint), they let Chicago shoot 54.7% from the field, including 45% from deep.
Without Ball and LaVine, this was a great opportunity for Cleveland to get a win in Chicago. However, you have to close quarters strong in the NBA, especially against outstanding teams, and Chicago is an excellent team.
In reality, Cleveland is still a young basketball team, so, unfortunately, there will be growing pains.
Right now, the Eastern Conference is bunched up, and with the loss, Cleveland went from the fourth seed to the sixth seed in the East. There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played, but it’s clear the Eastern Conference is a very competitive conference from top to bottom.
“They’re a really good team, and they have really good players,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said postgame. “To go on the road against a team that had lost four games in a row, they were gonna come out with that sense of purpose. Now, it’s our opportunity to understand it and see if we can figure out our way through it.”
Cleveland returns home Saturday to face the Oklahoma City Thunder as they begin a three-game homestand.
Best of the Rest:
-Kevin Love added 13 points, eight rebounds, and four assists for Cleveland off the bench.
-For Chicago, Ayo Dosunmu chipped in with 18 points, including three threes to go along with three rebounds and eight assists; Coby White added 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists.
-Cleveland was again without Lamar Stevens(knee) and Rajon Rondo(hamstring).
Watch below as Markkanen talks loss to Bulls, more: