The Bulls had a great opportunity to earn their first winning streak of the season against a bad and hurt Cavs team on Sunday night, and they took care of business thanks to a dominant second half in a 112-92 victory.
The Cavs actually played well for about 24 minutes and held a 62-56 lead early in the third quarter after a high-scoring first half, but the wheels came off for them after they squandered three consecutive chances to extend their lead even further.
That’s when Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono spurred a charge to take full control of the game. Markkanen scored the Bulls’ first eight points of the third quarter and wound up pouring in 14 of his game-high 31 points in the frame. It’s the first time in his young career going for back-to-back 30-point games, and he was extremely efficient again by shooting 11-of-18 shooting overall and 5-of-10 from 3. The Bulls did an excellent job getting him open looks off screens, but also thank the Cavs for somehow losing him far too often.
Meanwhile, Dunn and Arcidiacono directed the Bulls’ offense well with four assists apiece in the third quarter, and their dogged defense helped bogged down a Cavs team that finally stopped scoring after their torrid first half.
The Bulls took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter and never took their foot off the gas, with Dunn catching fire from mid-range again and Robin Lopez going to work down low. By the time it was all over, the Bulls had outscored the Cavs 58-33 in the second half while shooting nearly 64 percent from the field. The Cavs may be a terrible defensive team, but the Bulls were also simply on fire from all over the court. For the game, they shot 55.1 percent overall and 11-of-22 from 3-land.
In addition to Markkanen’s 31, Dunn finished with 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists. Arcidiacono had 12 points, eight assists, four rebounds and three assists, and he had at least four layups where he just blew past Cavs defenders off the dribble. It was a really rough night for Collin Sexton, who was a terrible 3-of-16 from the field while getting dumped on constantly by Neil and Stacey, for good reason.
Lopez and Justin Holiday were the other two Bulls in double figures with 15 points and 11 points, respectively.
Rotation wise, Jabari Parker (illness/trade block) and Cameron Payne (calf) were both available, but neither of them saw the floor. Chandler Hutchison was the backup power forward and did little of consequence in his first stint, but he had a few nice buckets during the third-quarter run. Antonio Blakeney played over Payne, and Blakeney surprisingly had one of the Bulls’ best defensive plays of the season by meeting Larry Nance Jr. at the rim:
Antonio Blakeney SKIES to block a Larry Nance dunk attempt pic.twitter.com/FjTP3BQsaV— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 24, 2018
The Bulls are now 9-25 on the season and 4-6 under Jim Boylen. In all four wins, Markkanen went over 20 points while shooting at least 50 percent from the field, which is no coincidence. Toss in the stellar play of Dunn, and the Bulls don’t quite look like an embarrassingly bad bottom-three team, even with Zach LaVine sidelined. How the Bulls function when Lavine comes back will be something to watch given that trio has struggled to develop chemistry together.
The Bulls will have a few days off to enjoy the Christmas holiday before welcoming in Derrick Rose and the Timberwolves to the United Center on Dec. 26. Rose is dealing with an ankle injury, but you have to think he’ll try his hardest to play at his old stomping grounds.