After a string of six straight losses, the Chicago Bulls were in desperate need of a win. Their recent slide had seen them fall out of the lead for the 10th and final play-in spot. After suffering some ugly losses in winnable games, the Bulls bounced back with a 106-96 victory at the United Center against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With Zach LaVine in COVID protocol, Chicago once again relied on their second All-Star to lead the way. Nikola Vucevic scored 25 points to lead all scorers and grabbed seven rebounds in the process. Lauri Markkanen gave Chicago some scoring pop off the bench with 16 points while Patrick Williams finally snapped a string of bad offensive games with 12 points of his own. The Bulls offensive performance was good enough to hold off a Cavs team which got 22 point from each of their young guards in Colin Sexton and Darius Garland.
Things didn’t start out great for Chicago with Cleveland quickly raced out to a lead, hitting three of their first five attempts from downtown. The Bulls fought back, responding with a 12-0 run to take the lead. Vucevic led the way with nine points as Chicago had a strong first quarter with zero turnovers. They led for much of the second before a late 7-0 run by Cleveland gave themselves a 49-47 lead heading into halftime. Once again Chicago responded back. This time it was a strong third quarter where they outscored the Cavaliers by 12. Cleveland’s offense was stagnant for much of the third as they only scored 10 points in the first eight minutes of the quarter. The Bulls took advantage and built up a double digit lead heading into the fourth.
The Cavaliers made it a game by cutting down to three on multiple occasions in the quarter. But each time they got close, Chicago answered with a much needed basket. When Darius Garland’s three brought to the Cavs to a one possession game with 3:23 left, the Bulls responded with back to back triples from Lauri Markkanen and Vucevic. Coby White then found Vooch on a dump off for a dunk that made it an eleven point lead with 56.7 seconds left, effectively finishing off the game.
As a team the Bulls had a pretty solid offensive night. They shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three with five players hitting more than one shot from downtown. Chicago only gave up the ball ten times in this game and move the ball well, generating 30 assists from their 41 made field goals. Vucevic was everywhere for Chicago on offense and provided more than just scoring. He also dished out five dimes in the process. Daniel Theis got the start next to him in the front court and didn’t have the best day in the scoring department with only eight threes but knocked down two triples and had another alley-oop dunk.
With Tomas Satoransky coming off the bench, Coby White once again got the start at point guard. He struggled to score as he went two of 10 from the field for just eight points. But he did a solid job of finding his teammates with nine assists. Garrett Temple pitched in with eight points and three assists. After failing to score more than 9 points in a game during the losing streak, Williams finally double digit point totals. He also grabbed four rebounds in his 27 minutes of action.
The bench stepped up with 45 points as compared to just the 15 of Cleveland. Markkanen looked a lot more confident on offense, scoring his highest point total since the win against Toronto on April 8th. He shot 50 percent from the field and grabbed six rebounds as well.
Denzel Valentine went two of seven from three but scored 13 points including some timely baskets early in the fourth. Thad Young and Satoransky only played 15 minutes tonight, the lowest of any Bulls player. The duo only combined with 15 points with the former having a rough shooting night (two of seven). Young also had a bit of an injury scare in the second quarter after a knee on knee collision with Matthew Dellavedova but was thankfully able to walk it out. Troy Brown Jr. had five rebounds and scored four points.
The Cavs had all five starters in double digits led by their backcourt. They outrebouded Chicago 44 to 34 and even scored more points in the paint. They kept the game close in the fourth and at times looked like they were going to the lead. But each time the Bulls countered.
This was a performance and a win Chicago needed. They were on a slide and losing ground in the playoff race. That was all before it was announced their best player would miss time during a crucial stretch of the season. To their credit they answered by winning and did so by making clutch plays in the fourth quarter, something which wasn’t there last week.
While it’s only just one victory, it must feel good for Chicago to see themselves get back into the win column. Next is a matchup against the Boston Celtics on Monday Night in TD Garden.