Derrick Rose wanted this one. You could tell right from the very first whistle tonight that Rose was locked in. It's become a running theme of his career that Rose, and well the rest of the Bulls, always seem to get especially up to play LeBron. Joakim doesn't like him. It sure seems like Rose doesn't like him, either. Rose took just 2 three pointers all night (he missed both) and mostly lived in the paint, as 13 of his 24 shot attempts were in the restricted area. In all, he scored 30 points on 24 shots, snagged 4 rebounds, dished 7 assists, got a steal and only turned it over twice (both in garbage time). He also added another dunk to his season tally, bringing him up to 4 on the year. The dunks seem to be coming with greater frequency of late, which is certainly an encouraging sign. Also encouraging was Rose's racecar impression up and down the court tonight.
Maybe most impressive and important was that Rose was able to go for nearly 41 minutes with no obvious effects from fatigue. It'd be easy to complain about Thibs playing the guys, and especially Rose, too many minutes in what was not a very close game, but the Bulls have a pretty nice break coming up and Pau played "only" 32 minutes and he's the only Bull who will be playing in the All Star Game with Jimmy Butler injured.
As is often the case when Rose is attacking as relentlessly as he did tonight, it opened things up for everyone else. With the Cavs' attention focused on an aggressive Rose, Pau was getting open pick and pop looks and Tony Snell was finding open 3 pointers and cutting lanes. Snell canned 4 of his 6 three point attempts and went 9 of 11 on the night for 22 points. One thing of note is that Tony has gotten really smart about making baseline cuts and dives from the wing to take advantage of a scrambled defense. It's a skill that Jimmy Butler used to great effect early in his career (and still does) and combining that with his outside shooting ability makes him a really nice offensive weapon as a 4th option in the starting lineup or off the bench when Jimmy returns. Snell also played admirable defense, largely on LeBron. The "King" had 8 turnovers, a bunch of which were forced by the man people are calling Snelly Cat (which is a nickname I cannot get behind, for what it's worth). LeBron was a -27 for the night and a lot of that was a credit to Tony. Snell was a +29 in his 38 minutes. Single game +/- is not always a great stat, but it certainly felt like Tony won the matchup tonight, which is just incredible considering where he was even a month ago. Hopefully this stretch of games is enough that Snell is now a regular member of the rotation even when everyone gets healthy and Kirk Hinrich gets the old heave-ho from the circle of regular minutes-getters.
Mike Dunleavy Jr. got a bunch of good looks that were just off, as he went 2 of 7 from the field and 1 of 4 from three. Honestly, he looked rusty and given how much time he's missed that's to be expected. His presence, however, even with mediocre stats, showed up in other ways, particularly in the way the threat of his shooting helped to open up those driving lanes that Rose was barreling down all night.
An underrated part of the Bulls beating up the Cavs is that noted Cleveland and LeBron hater Joakim Noah looks like himself again. He is moving better than he has in nearly a year, as he was beginning to slow down even as the regular season drew to a close last year, before the Wizards series. Noah got to the line for 10 foul shots and grabbed 15 rebounds, a testament to the return of his activity level. In all he scored 10 points and he tacked on 7(!) assists for good measure. If Joakim is healthy, the Bulls become a completely different and much more dangerous team.
The Cavs were on the road on the second night of a back to back and were without Kevin Love, but this is still a really good win to get (especially without Jimmy Butler) and a nice feeling to ride into the All Star Break on for our guys.