Cavs’ Bickerstaff: ‘We’ve got young guys who are trying to figure it out’

The Cleveland Cavaliers started a three-game homestand Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls.

Coming into this game, the sixth-seeded Cavs were one game behind the fifth-seeded Bulls. 

The Cavs had a great opportunity to move up in the standings. However, Cleveland did not play very well, and they fell to the Bulls 98-94 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The Cavs struggled for three quarters, but they cut the lead to three in the fourth; however, Chicago went on a 10-1 run to put the game away.

The Bulls(43-31) snapped a two-game losing streak with the victory.

With the loss, the Cavs(41-33) are now the seventh seed in the East as the Raptors(42-32) defeated the Pacers Saturday night. Cleveland would be involved in the Play-In Tournament if the season ended today.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Bulls.

The Great for the Cavs:

-Darius Garland led all scorers with 28 points, 14 which came in the fourth quarter, to go along with six rebounds and five assists. The All-Star has scored 20-plus points in nine of the last 10 games. 

-Caris LeVert got the start against the Bulls and was solid. He had 17 points and five rebounds. Putting LeVert in the starting lineup gives Cleveland another ball-handler and someone who can put the ball in the basket.

Fourth Quarter:  Going into the fourth, Cleveland trailed 75-63, but they woke up on the offensive end. The Cavs went on a 17-8 run to cut the lead to 85-82. Garland(14) and LeVert(9) combined for 23 of Cleveland’s 31-fourth quarter points. Cleveland shot 58% from the floor, including 50%(3/6) from three-point range in the final stanza.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

First Half: Chicago dominated this game from the start, and they jumped out to a 28-16 lead after the first quarter; the Bulls pushed the lead to as much as 19 points in the second, which was their largest lead of the game. The Cavs’ offense was stagnant in the first half; they produced only 35 points, on 31% shooting from the floor, including 1/18 from downtown. The Bulls led 53-35 at the break. 

Three-Point Shooting:  Cleveland had a hard time behind the arc. They were 7/31(24%) from deep. 

Bottom Line:

The first half killed the Cavs, and they were looking up the whole game. It’s getting late for Cleveland, but with eight games left, there’s still enough time to do what they need to do, which is be one of the top six teams in the East.

They clearly miss Jarrett Allen and not just on defense. Allen was a lob threat for the Cavs and scored around the basket, which the Cavs need. Cleveland lost to the Bulls because they could not score. 

As stated numerous times, no one expected the Cavs to be in this spot, but they’re here, and they have to play better in big spots, and in the last two games against the Raptors and Bulls, Cleveland did not play well. 

Quotes:

“We’ve got young guys who are trying to figure it out, and you never figure it out until you’re in those positions,” Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said post-game.

What’s Next:

Cleveland continues their three-game homestand Monday night against the Magic.

Best of the Rest:

-The Bulls had five starters in double figures led by Zach LaVine’s 25 points; DeMar DeRozan added 20 points, and Nikola Vucevic chipped in with 16 points and nine rebounds. 

-Lauri Markkanen had 14 points and nine rebounds. Lamar Stevens was in double figures for the fourth straight game as he had 13 points and four rebounds off the bench.

-Kevin Love made his 1,000th three Saturday night.

-The Bulls won on the road for the first time since March 9.

Watch below as Garland talks loss to Bulls:

Cavs go home to regroup after falling to Chicago Saturday night

The Cleveland Cavaliers headed to Chicago to face the Bulls Saturday night in the second half of a back-to-back after falling to the Heat Friday night.

The Cavs have been without Caris LeVert(foot) and Jarrett Allen(finger), and they came in even more depleted as Lauri Markkanen missed Saturday’s game after re-aggravating an ankle injury Friday night.

Cleveland trailed by double digits at halftime, and Chicago had their largest lead of 18 points in the fourth and would win 101-91 at United Center.

The Cavs finished their three-game road trip 1-2. 

The Cavs(38-29) have now lost two straight and eight of their last 11. Chicago(41-26) has won two in a row.

The Great for the Cavs:

-After a slow shooting start(2-12 in the first half), Darius Garland finished strong. He scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half, including nine in the fourth. He also added seven rebounds and seven assists in 42 minutes of action. Once you become an All-Star, defenses will start to show you more attention, and Garland is getting a lot of attention from opposing defenses.

-Evan Mobley got his third consecutive start at center and, again, played well. Mobley had 17 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. This was Mobley’s four straight game in double figures.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Second Quarter:  Things fell apart for Cleveland in the second. They were down 24-22 after one quarter, but their shots did not fall in the second as they were 9/26 from the floor, including 1/11 from downtown. Chicago went on a 15-5 run to start the second and took a 12-point lead, and they led by as many as 13 in the quarter. 

After a DeMar DeRozan jumper at the buzzer, Chicago took a 53-42 lead into the break. Cleveland cut the lead to nine on two occasions in the second half, but they never really threatened after the second quarter.

Three-Point Shooting:  According to Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Cleveland got good looks from three-point range, but they could not make shots. Cleveland finished 5/24(21%) from deep. Cedi Osman struggled the most as he was 1/8 from downtown.

Turnovers: The Cavs had 18 turnovers against the Heat Friday night and turned the ball over 14 times against the Bulls. That’s 32 turnovers in two games. It’s tough to win against the better teams in the league when you’re turning the ball over at that rate. Garland led the way with six turnovers.

Bottom Line: 

The Bottom Line, it’s time for the Cavs to get home and regroup. Without some of their key players, it’s not surprising that Cleveland lost to the Heat and Bulls on the road. They did battle, but they just did not have enough.

Fortunately for the Cavs, they get to go home for five straight and eight of their next nine, so that’s an opportunity for them to possibly solidify that six spot in the East and avoid the Play-In Tournament.

As for the standings, things are starting to tighten up for that sixth spot in the East. The seventh-seeded Raptors(37-30) have won three straight and are now one game behind the Cavs for the sixth seed. Remember, only the top six teams in each conference are guaranteed a playoff spot. 

What’s Next:

Cleveland begins a five-game homestand starting Monday night against the Clippers.

Best of the Rest:

-DeRozan led the Bulls with 25 points; Nikola Vucevic chipped in with 20 points and 14 rebounds, Ayo Dosunmu added 17 points.

-Kevin Love, who started for Markkanen, had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Osman added 14 points off the bench.

-Rajon Rondo left in the third quarter and did not return after rolling his ankle. 

Watch below as Kevin Love talks loss to Bulls:

 

 

 

Cavs five-game win streak ends in Chicago

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.

Bottom Line:

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.”

What’s Next:

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cavs’ Bickerstaff: ‘Our guys will get better, and we will improve’

The Cleveland Cavaliers had their preseason debut on Tuesday night in Chicago against the Bulls. Fortunately for Cleveland, this game does not count. Chicago led by as many as 48 points and would defeat Cleveland 131-95.

The Cavaliers had 15 turnovers in the first half and 20 in total. The new-look Bulls, who added Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan in the offseason, scored 69 points in the first half and led by 23 points at halftime.

Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 25 points. Collin Sexton’s 14 points led Cleveland, and Lauri Markkanen added 13 points off the bench in his return to Chicago.

Bickerstaff attributed a lot of the Cavaliers’ issues to youth. The oldest player in Cleveland’s starting lineup on Tuesday was 23(Jarrett Allen).

“Not making excuses, but we got a lot of young basketball players that are still trying to figure it out,” Bickerstaff said. “Our guys will get better, and we will improve.”

The Cavs struggled in all facets of the game on Tuesday night, but there were some positives. Backup point guard Ricky Rubio, who started the second half, played well and is an upgrade over last season’s backups at the point guard spot. Rubio had 10 points and six assists in 20 minutes of action. Also, rookie Evan Mobley was solid in his debut. He added 10 points and eight rebounds. 

You never like to overreact off of any preseason game, especially the first one, but the Bulls look like they have put together a team that can contend in the East while the Cavs looked like a team that is headed to the lottery again. However, there’s a lot of basketball to be played.

We’ll see how the Cavs bounce back against the Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday night.

Watch below as Mobley and Sexton react to Cleveland’s loss to Chicago on Tuesday night:

Bulls, Spurs complete sign-and-trade for DeMar DeRozan

The San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls have completed the sign-and-trade for DeMar DeRozan, the teams announced on Wednesday.

In exchange for DeRozan, the Spurs have acquired Al Farouq-Aminu, forward Thaddeus Young, a future first-round pick, a 2022 second-round pick, and a 2025 second-round pick.

The 32-year-old DeRozan, who reportedly agreed to a four-year, $85 million deal with Chicago, spent three seasons with San Antonio after being acquired by the Spurs in 2018.

Last season, the 12-year veteran averaged 21.6 points, 6.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds per contest.

Aminu, 30, split last season playing for Chicago and the Orlando Magic, averaging 4.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 18.9 minutes. The 11-year veteran holds career averages of 7.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 24.9 minutes over 711 total games.

Young, 33, averaged a career-high 4.3 assists to go along with 12.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for Chicago last season. The 14-year veteran is one of six active players with career totals of at least 13,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, and 1,000 steals.

The Bulls went all out in free agency. They added Lonzo Ball, DeRozan, Alex Caruso to go along with what they have with Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine, while it appears the Spurs might be in rebuild mode after losing their best player.

 

Spurs’ Vassell: ‘We got all the making of a winning culture’

The San Antonio Spurs season ended where it began on Wednesday night as the Spurs fell to the Grizzlies 100-96 at FedExForum in the Play-In Tournament.

With the win, the ninth-seeded Grizzlies will head on the road to battle the Warriors on Friday night. The winner of that game will be the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The Spurs defeated the Grizzlies in Memphis in their season-opener, but it was a different story on Wednesday night.

Grizzlies led by as many as 21 points in the first quarter and had a 38-19 lead at the end of one. However, San Antonio would close the gap in the second quarter and would trail 56-49 at halftime. San Antonio entered the fourth quarter trailing by seven but would take their first lead since the first quarter when DeMar DeRozan made a jump shot to take an 80-79 with over seven minutes to go. However, the Grizzlies would go on a 15-7 run to take control from there.

San Antonio missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season, which is the first time that happened in team history.

Even though San Antonio lost on Wednesday night, Gregg Popovich was happy with the team’s effort. 

“No matter what the mistakes, no matter what the circumstances are, they really fight,” Popovich said. “That’s a good base. So, I’m really proud of the way they conducted themselves and played to win.”

The Spurs have some decent young players in Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson, and according to rookie Devin Vassell, San Antonio has the talent to make noise for years to come.

“I think the sky’s the limit, honestly,” Vassell said after the game. “The young crew, the young core that we have; I mean we got talent, we got grit, we got hustle. We got all the making of a winning culture, and we’re all going to bond together; we’re going to stick together this summer. We’re going to push each other to get better each day. We’re going to come back with a vengeance next year.”

The Spurs are stuck in the middle right now. Too good to get a very good pick and not good enough to make the playoffs. DeMar DeRozan, 31, the team’s best player and closer, will be a free agent, so it will be interesting to see what happens there. This team is still looking for a star, and maybe one of the young guys can be that. 

Also, Gregg Popovich is 72, so it should be interesting to see how many years he has left. The future is not bleak for the Spurs, and the team does have plenty of cap space(over $50 million), but San Antonio is not a major free agent destination, which could make things tricky.

San Antonio still has more work to do if they want to get back to the playoffs and be contenders in the Western Conference.

Spurs continue their playoff push in Phoenix

The San Antonio Spurs(26-28) had a golden opportunity to gain some ground in the Western Conference standings on Friday night against the Portland Trailblazers(32-23). Portland was without their leading scorer Damian Lillard(hamstring). However, behind C.J. McCollum’s 29 points and 22 from Norman Powell, the Blazers defeated San Antonio 107-106 at AT&T Center.

DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 26 points, and Dejounte Murray became the fourth Spur to record three triple-doubles in a single season when he had 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists on Friday night.

San Antonio led most of the game and led by as much as 16 points in the third quarter, but Portland closed the third quarter on a 24-8 run to close the gap to two entering the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter was a back and forth affair, which included seven lead changes, and the Blazers went up for good when Norman Powell made a driving layup with 22.8 seconds left. San Antonio had one final chance to take the lead, but DeRozan would miss a baseline jumper, and Jakob Poeltl would miss the follow at the buzzer. 

DeRozan had a few words with the officials after the game. According to DeRozan, Poeltl was fouled on his shot at the end of the game.

‘It looked liked when Jakob(Poeltl) got the rebound, he got hit,” DeRozan said. “It looked like a foul to me.”

Foul or no foul, the Spurs lose another home game and continue to struggle at AT&T Center, where they are now 12-18. Maybe some good news for the Spurs as they go on the road to battle the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night. San Antonio is 14-10 away from home, but beating Suns, who have the second-best record in basketball, won’t be easy. 

San Antonio, who has lost seven of their last nine games, also continues to dip in the standings. They are now the 10th seed in the Western Conference and are one game behind the Warriors for the 9th seed. The Spurs are two games up on the 11th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans, so it’s starting to get a little tight for the Spurs in terms of their playoff spot. Teams 7-10 will be compete in a play-in tournament

Doncic on DeRozan game-winner: ‘He made a hell of a shot’

The San Antonio Spurs(25-26) have had difficulty winning close games of late. During their five-game losing streak, San Antonio lost two games in overtime, and they lost by two points to the Nuggets on Friday night.

Fortunately for San Antonio, DeMar DeRozan came alive against the Mavericks on Sunday night. DeRozan scored 27 of his 33 points in the second half, including the game-winning shot with 0.5 seconds left as the Spurs defeated the Mavericks(29-23) on the road 119-117 to snap their five-game losing streak. 

DeRozan also added eight assists and five rebounds. Kristaps Porzingis led the way for Dallas with 31 points and 15 rebounds, and Luka Doncic added 29 points.

According to the Spurs, since DeRozan was drafted in 2009, he has 27 field goals to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the game (including playoffs). Only four players have more: Damian Lillard (35), Russell Westbrook (32), Kevin Durant (30), and LeBron James (28).

After the game, DeRozan discussed the game-winner.

“Honestly, just trying to get to my spot knowing the clock,” DeRozan said. “Take my time, not rushing, and just going to the move I’ve worked on so many times. Concentrate and knock down a shot.”

Doncic added on DeRozan’s game-winner: “He made a hell of a shot. It was good defending, I think, he made a hell of a shot. Props to him for making the shot.”

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle had Dorian Finney-Smith guarding DeRozan on the final shot and chose not to bring a double-team. According to Carlisle, that was a mistake.

 “We elected to let [Dorian Finney-Smith] guard him straight-up,” he said. “In hindsight, we obviously should have gone, and that’s on me. That’s my decision. That’s a detailed description of it.”

This was a good win for the Spurs, who continue to be a much better team on the road(13-9) than at home(12-17). However, for the Mavericks, this was a disappointing loss as they had an opportunity to extend their lead in the standings over Spurs and had a chance to get closer to the sixth-seeded Blazers. 

Both teams get back at it on Monday night. The Mavericks host the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded team, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Spurs continue their five-game road trip in Orlando against the Magic.

Spurs snap four-game losing streak with win over Chicago

For three quarters, the San Antonio Spurs(23-20) were in complete control and led by as much as 36 points against the Chicago Bulls(19-25) on Saturday night. However, the Bulls made a furious run in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to nine with just over five minutes left, but San Antonio went on a 7-0 run to push the lead to 16, and they would go on and win 120-104 at AT&T Center.

With the win, San Antonio snaps a four-game losing streak.

The Spurs had seven players in double figures led by Jakob Poeltl’s 20 points. DeMar DeRozan had 17 points and seven assists, and Patty Mills and Derrick White had 16 points apiece. Newly-acquired Nikola Vucevic led the Bulls with 21 points and nine rebounds.

San Antonio led by as much as 31 points in the first half and had a 65-39 lead at the break. The Spurs carried a 23-point lead into the fourth quarter. 

Dejounte Murray, who had 14 points and eight assists on Saturday night, felt the Spurs got a little lax in the fourth quarter. The Bulls went on a 21-6 run to make things interesting.

“I think they kind of punched us,” Murray said. “I think that we kind got a little comfortable, and they punched us, but we kept it under control and we won the game.”

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was happy with the shot-making and San Antonio’s ability to share the ball(29 assists in the game). 

“You make shots; everything looks a lot better,” Popovich said. “Overall, we shared it pretty well. DeMar(DeRozan), Derrick(White), Dejounte(Murray) had 22 assists between the three of them and only four turnovers, so that was a big part of getting open shots.”

Poeltl added: “Everybody did their part. We were sharing the ball, and I think that’s the best way to play ball, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Popovich hit another milestone on Saturday night as he won his 1300th game as a head coach. He’s the third coach in NBA history to do it. If the 72-year-old Popovich continues coaching, he will probably surpass Don Nelson(1335), who is the all-time leader in wins.

San Antonio continues their nine-game homestand when they host the Kings for a two-game set starting on Monday night. Hopefully, for San Antonio, they will have Devin Vassell, who left the game in second quarter with a sprained ankle and did not return. 

Spurs bounce back against the Knicks

The San Antonio Spurs bounced back on Tuesday night against New York’s other team, the Knicks. Behind a strong third quarter, where the Spurs outscored New York by 15 points, San Antonio routed the Knicks 119-93 at AT&T Center. The 26-point victory was the largest margin of victory for San Antonio this season. 

The Spurs were playing a back-to-back after falling to the Nets on Monday night in OT. Against the Knicks, who are number one in points allowed, San Antonio scored 36 points in the third quarter. Patty Mills(3-5 from three-point range) had nine points in the quarter, and Trey Lyles(2-2 from three-point range) had eight of his team and season-high 18 points, and in the end, San Antonio got back to their winning ways. The Spurs finished the game with 18 made threes. 

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was happy with the team’s effort.

“I think it was an impressive win on a back-to-back,” Popovich said. “Tough loss last night, and they just keep on trucking. An impressive win on a back-to-back came out and played a very physical team. Actually, the number one defensive team in the league right now. They should be pleased with their effort for now. “

Popovich was also happy with the play of DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray. DeRozan had a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists, and he became the fifth player in Spurs history to record 11-plus assists in three straight games, while Murray had 17 points and six assists.

“Once again, Dejounte and DeMar, attacking, finding people,” Popovich said. “Between them, 17 assists and one turnover.”

The Spurs battle the Thunder at home on Thursday night, which is very winnable, and the final game before the All-Star break and the team’s four-game homestand. San Antonio is looking to avenge their loss to OKC, who beat the Spurs at the buzzer back in late February.