You had to have seen this coming, but it doesn’t make the result any easier to stomach.
Of all the teams that the Chicago Bulls could have gotten to end their inexplicably sudden winning streak, it just had to be that squad from that particularly repugnant northern Ohio septic tank known as Cleveland. The city that Dwyane Wade ran away to by way of his hometown, with a pit stop at the bank. The city that will likely become the final resting place of Derrick Rose’s NBA career. Good lord do I HAAAAAAAAATE Cleveland.
Eh, whatever. All things considered, the Bulls went into Quicken Loans Aena on the second night of a back-to-back and came away with a pretty predictable loss, though certainly not by the final score. Valiant and resilient to the finish, Chicago unfortunately just didn’t get a good look on the last possession of the game to ultimately come away with a 115-112 loss. Kris Dunn—aside from the occasional terrifyingly-awful airball from distance—had a commanding presence in the offense, and Lauri Markkanen played a brilliant offensive game in his own right despite hitting his only three during a four-point-play in the 4th quarter.
Dunn finished the game with only 10 points on 5-12 shooting, but he clearly had the ability to get to wherever he wanted to with the ball in his hands tonight and took advantage of it to the tune of 14 assists. Dunn’s passing performance spearheaded a team-wide ball-sharing effort tonight that saw the Bulls record their second consecutive new season high for total assists, surpassing last night’s total of 31 with 34. Alongside him, Lauri Markkanen played one of his best offensive games of the season so far with 25 points on 11-17 shooting. He also stole a pass from LeBron James and beat Channing Frye all the way down the court for a dunk:
Elsewhere, Denzel Valentine had his second great performance in as many nights with 18 points on 7-10 shooting (4-7 from 3-PT range) to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Robin Lopez also had another rock solid offensive evening of his own with 14 points and three assists. Rounding out the excellent outings from Bulls on the night, Nikola Mirotic dropped 15 points in 25 minutes while nailing three of his six attempts from distance in the process and snagging five rebounds.
Sadly, for as well as the Bulls fought to preserve their win streak, they were just one more good outing away from pulling off a major upset on the road tonight. David Nwaba had easily his worst game of the season with as many points as turnovers (2) and a team-low +/- rating of -15. Bobby Portis played merely 14 minutes and scored just six points on seven shot attempts. Jerian Grant scored nine points of his own but seemed to be the only ball handler for the Bulls that couldn’t get in on the passing act with just one assist.
The final score is truly a shame given how competitive the Bulls played for all 48 minutes under the circumstances, but it’s hard to come away from this game with much disappointment once you let the winning streak go. The rebuild Bulls went wire-to-wire with a LeBron James-led team that likely wanted to beat them BAD after not doing so at all for over a year and a half. At the end of the night, the Bulls played with about as much grace as you can ask for—other than a sure-to-be-skewered disaster of a final play from Fred Hoiberg—and still came away one step closer to the lottery.
Justin Holiday also Shaqtin’-ized LeBron James, so at least take solace in that: