Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE
The Bulls went nuclear on the Cavs in the first half on Friday night and cruised to an easy victory.
Much like the three games between the two teams last year, the Bulls waltzed into Joakim Noah's favorite city and laid an unmerciful beat down on the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers. The win moved the Bulls to 2-0, which is the first time they've done so since the 2002-03 season.
This one was never really competitive, thanks to a combination of Bulls dominance and Cavs atrociousness. The score was 7-0 before anybody could blink, and after the Cavs momentarily got back into it, the Bulls pulled away and never looked back. The lead was 32-16 after one and ballooned to 25 by halftime.
The Bulls grabbed the lead by pushing the pace and turning defense into offense. For the second straight game, the Bulls forced a ton of turnovers early on, leading to easy baskets on the other end. They forced nine turnovers in the first quarter alone, which led to 14 points and also contributed to 11 fast break points.
But the halfcourt offense was also effective for the Bulls, with Kirk Hinrich doing an excellent job running the show and pretty much everybody else getting involved. Much like the other night against the Kings, all five Bulls starters were on the score sheet by midway through the first quarter. The ball was moving crisply and shots were falling from pretty much everywhere besides the three-point line. Carlos Boozer had two dunks (!!!), while Luol Deng was aggressive taking the ball to the basket after a 3-13 shooting night on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Cavs were an absolute train wreck, much like CSN's feed. The Cavs' shot selection was terrible, they were sloppy with the ball and their offensive spacing was putrid. Obviously the Bulls' defense should get some credit for this, but I was appalled at just how bad the Cavs looked. Even Kyrie Irving was stymied early by Hinrich, although apparently this is becoming a thing nowadays.
Things got even uglier when the Cavs went to their bench, and those things will happen when you employ guys like Luke Walton. Byron Scott tried to go with Walton against Taj Gibson, to hilariously terrible results. On the other end, Walton air-balled a five-footer and took several other questionable shots. On a similar note, I'm pretty sure there's no shot that C.J. Miles won't take.
When the carnage was over in the first half, the Bulls led 60-35. They shot 66.7 percent and had 17 assists. They had 32 points in the paint, 13 fast break points and 17 points off turnovers. Likely one of the best halves the Bulls will play all season.
The second half was a mere formality, with the Cavs showing brief signs of life before Richard Hamilton decided it was time to say goodnight. Hamilton scored 14 points on torrid 7-of-8 shooting in the third quarter, extending the Bulls' lead to 27 heading into the final quarter.
Hamilton and Boozer wound up leading the Bulls in scoring with 19 points apiece. Boozer played a nice floor game overall, finishing with seven rebounds and perhaps more impressively, six assists. I must say that the big-to-big passing between him and Noah will be a huge asset this season.
Off the bench, Nate Robinson was good Nate Robinson, garnering big minutes due to foul trouble for Hinrich. Robinson played two extremely different halves, but they were both extremely effective. In the first half, he took on more of a scoring role, knocking down both three-pointers he took and pouring in 12 points. In the second half, he took on more of a distributor's role, feeding Hamilton time and time again en route to eight third quarter assists. For the game, Robinson finished with 16 points and 12 dimes.
All in all, I'm not going to take too much from this game, because the Cavs are truly terrible. Irving is great (not great tonight), but there's just too much crap on the rest of the team to really take them seriously. They have some guys who try hard, but the bench is abysmal and there's nobody else who can consistently put the ball in the basket. Dion Waiters has potential I guess, but he didn't show much tonight other than the propensity to jack bad shots.
But still, you can't not be impressed by how well the Bulls played. And I have a feeling they will do this to a lot of bad teams this year (maybe not THIS, but they'll have their share of blowouts). It's why I picked them to win nearly 50 games. They will always defend like hell and against these poor teams, the Bulls will have success on offense because they move the ball so well.
The Bulls play The Brow (maybe, apparently he was concussed tonight) and the New Orleans Hornets tomorrow night. I think Thibs finally remembered this late in the fourth quarter when the starters were mercifully pulled from the game.