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Bulls vs. Cavs: Bulls pull away late, Rose vs. Irving matchup fizzles

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Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

In what was, for the most part, a fairly miserable game to watch, the Bulls finally pulled away from the Cavs late in the 4th quarter to win 96-81. After stumbling a bit in the early going, the Bulls were in control for much of the first 3 quarters, but kind of matched the Cavs cruddy play late in the 3rd. Kyrie Irving hit a 3-pointer in the opening moments of the 4th to bring the Cavs within 1, but they never took the lead.

At that point though, it looked like Irving may have woken up to try and take over...but thought that was mostly because one had to wonder if he was going to show up at all. The hoped-for Irving vs. Derrick Rose matchup fizzled, and at least Rose had an excuse. Irving however looked more just out of it (Fear the Sword called him 'especially sleepy'), no doubt discouraged by Rose himself and the Bulls bigs a bit, but the Cavs PG also simply didn't look to want want to force the issue. He started the game 0-6 from the field and didn't hit that first shot until very late in the 3rd quarter, finishing with 16 points on 5-19 shooting (and 4 points were in garbage time, it must be said. Must!).

Irving looked to at least be trying more in the 4th quarter, but the Bulls defense did a great job containing and crowding him, and even getting low to force some mishandling of the ball. With 3:30 remaining, Irving missed on a fairly wild floater, and Derrick Rose immediately turned on the jets and his coast-to-coast layup put the Bulls up 7 points. Of course that was his final basket of the night in what was not as egg-laying of an evening as Irving had, but yet another uneven Derrick Rose performance to start this season. On the bright side, in Rose's 34 minutes he had zero turnovers, and his defense clearly did something to bother Irving. But Rose also shot 8-21 from the field, and as Thibs pointed out post-game Rose is still not finishing a lot of drives as well as he used to. When he's in a lot of space (and the Cavs obliged) or in transition he looks more like his old self. But there are still way too many times you see Rose lose control of the ball (or his body), or get blocked, or simply jump into guys and not get the call. Rose didn't attempt a single free-throw on the night and it didn't seem like some egregious officiating issue either.

Both teams shot 41%, so you have to kind of squint to see the positives. The Cavs worked in Andrew Bynum early, who was starting for the first time this season and did show he's at least still massive with solid footwork and touch. When the floor was cleared out for him, he was able to back down Joakim Noah (GIF) and either finish or at least draw more defenders. But it also resulted in some slow defense, bad turnovers and a stagnant (and Kyrie-free) offense, as Bynum made some poor passes or the Cavs guards forced the ball to him unsuccessfully. And though Bynum left the game after 10 minutes and didn't return the rest of the half, the Cavaliers kept throwing the ball away. They wound up with 12 first half turnovers, 4 of which from Dion Waiters going against the much bigger Jimmy Butler. It was another slight on Kyrie Irving's lack of assertion in that he should not allow lesser players like Waiters to dominate the ball instead. The Cavs went small often, adding in Jarrett Jack and CJ Miles to their lineups, and those guys were sometimes successful in losing Mike Dunleavy and the other larger Bulls wings off of screens, but it usually resulted in a missed long-range shot.

Meanwhile, Dunleavy was much better on the offensive end, and had some key baskets of his own down the stretch including a 3-pointer. For Bulls fans now likely unfamiliar with the concept, that's what happens when a player makes an attempt from behind that line far away from the basket. Dunleavy was 2-3, the rest of the team was 2-13. Dunleavy also had a ridiculous-looking but effective foul-baiting attempt early in the 4th quarter that earned him three free-throws. He played the entire fourth quarter and had 10 points in it, as though Rose left the game at the end the 7-point lead only increased.

What also swung the game was the frontcourt turning the tables in the second half. In the first half, Bynum was not only generating good looks but doing damage on the offensive glass. The Cavs grabbed 40% of the offensive rebounds in the first half behind Bynum and downright springy Tristan Thompson. Thompson showed a deft touch as well and may have been the lone Cavalier who had an outright positive showing on Monday. He outworked (or more just out-jumped) Carlos Boozer at times, but Boozer more than held his own in his methodical way, and quietly was the best Bull on Monday with 17 points on 7-11 shooting. And in the second half, he and the rest of the team held the Cavs to a mere 16.7% offensive rebound rate. A huge turnaround considering there were so many damned misses. When Irving hit that 3 in the fourth it was horrifying 66-65 game to that point, but the Bulls surged in the fourth quarter for a 32-21 advantage and the win.

  • Like I said, while I'm sure Rose was probably was cheated out of a couple trips to the line simply by being in the paint so much, I don't think he was actively being screwed. Both Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich (who had 5 fouls in 25 minutes) were sporting their whiny-faces throughout the second half. To be fair to them they had a couple of definite bad calls against them. To be unfair to them maybe if they were more judicious with their exasperation it'd be easier to pick out the bad calls.
  • It's early, but it certainly looks like Mike Brown doesn't know what he has in his team yet. Brown went with an all-bench lineup before the first quarter was over, and that included 2 guys I didn't know where in the league in Henry Sims and Matthew Dellavedova (who, speaking of the refs, got away with a blatant double-dribble). Then those guys didn't play in the 2nd half while former first-rounder Tyler Zeller did. Zeller didn't look too bad, junking up Joakim Noah's night anyway and was the only positive +/- Cav. Anthony Bennett, the first overall pick from this past draft, received a DNP.
  • warning: may ruin your morning.