David Richard - US Presswire
This may have been one the least anticipated games of the season. Between the Bulls looking fairly dreadful the night before, and a Dion Waiters injury meaning both teams were going to be missing their starting backcourts, it wasn't looking like an exciting contest: not because the Bulls weren't expected to win, bit because it probably was going to be ugly even when they did.
But it was actually a pretty fun-to-watch performance, and the game wasn't quite a blowout, but wound up a solid 95-85 victory. The Bulls led for the entire game, and though an 18 point second-half lead was at one point down to 5, the game was never really in doubt. And it case it was in doubt, Thibs made sure it wasn't by having Noah and Deng both going over 42 minutes.
The Bulls looked physically dominant and the much more fluid team than the Cavs, and nearly every Bull had a good performance. They were surprisingly led by Marco Belinelli's 23 points, who was able to easily shoot over the Cavs smaller guards (as did Deng, who though scoring one point less had the best game of any Bull) and was aggressive in getting to the line 8 times. It was definitely Belinelli's best game of the season (he played nearly 40 minutes!), and sorely needed after the no-show in his initial chance at the starting job. Belli's defense is still pretty bad, and that Cavs backcourt did make a run being able to get to the lane, but a lot of the time they had no plan once they got there. Or at least what was a plan was soon thwarted by seeing the Bulls bigs.
The Joakim Noah vs. Anderson Varejao matchup provided some highlights, as two of the more unique yet extremely-good centers in the league this season went (mostly) head-to-head. Noah narrowly won the battle statistically, though his counterpart had far less to work with and had to force some looks he probably wouldn't have normally tried. Both frontcourts enjoyed a lot of offensive rebounds (Cavs 28.5% ORR, Bulls 27%) due to both of them.
This Cavs defense allowed the Bulls to use their interior passing which provided a very stark contrast to how the Pacers absolutely shut down any spacing. That, combined with a lack of fear the Cavs had the firepower to come back, provided some moments from nearly everyone. Kirk shot over 50%, Boozer had a couple inside finishes, Jimmy Butler beat a zone flashing in the middle for a jumper, Stacey King got to use all his catchphrases, Neil Funk got to say the entire other team sucked and it was mostly accurate, a good night was had by all.
Maybe not Taj Gibson, he had 5 fouls and 2 points in under 16 minutes. But pretty much everyone else was fine. To lose this game, given what Cleveland was putting out there, would've been a real travesty. So it's more relief than excitement that they won, but it's far better than the alternative.