After losing two games in a row this past week, the pressure was right back on the Chicago Bulls to get a victory. When they needed it the most, they pulled out a 98-94 road victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The win now gives Chicago the tiebreaker over the Cavs along with some breathing room in the standings.
The Bulls had one of their better first halves in recent memory, going up by as much as 19. It looked like it was the start of a great bounce-back performance for Chicago, one which was much-needed given the standings. Their defense did their part and held Cleveland to just 35 points in a half. The offense made a statement as well with 25 combined points from Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
However, things got a bit tense in the second half. Cleveland outscored the Bulls by six in the third quarter to cut the gap down to 12. Then in the fourth quarter, some sloppy defense combined with cold shooting let the Cavaliers fully back into the ball game. Chicago saw its lead dwindle down to three with just under five minutes to play, and it felt like this was going to turn into a disastrous loss.
Then the Bulls stepped up and responded with a 10-1 run to push the lead back to 12. It was a run which featured some nice finishes at the hoop by Ayo Dosunmu and LaVine. Vucevic hit some free throws and DeMar DeRozan threw down a thunderous dunk after driving down the baseline:
DEMAR DEROZAN @NBCSChicago | @DeMar_DeRozan pic.twitter.com/5rcSF6EE5E— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 27, 2022
The game still wasn't done, however. The Cavaliers went on a 10-3 run and forced a Vucevic turnover after a successful challenge. Ayo then fouled Darius Garland on a 3-point attempt with a 98-93 lead with 6.7 seconds remaining. Fortunately, Garland missed two of his three attempts from the line, ultimately allowing the Bulls to escape with their biggest win of the season.
Chicago’s offense as a whole had its fair share of ups and downs. As a team they shot 48 percent from the field but were woeful from 3, hitting just 23 percent of their attempts. They did share the basketball, generating 23 assists on 36 makes, but struggled a bit with holding onto the ball with 13 turnovers.
LaVine led the way with 25 points on 8-of-17 shooting along with three assists. DeRozan got himself into early foul trouble but still finished with 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting while adding five rebounds. Cleveland’s defense did give him some trouble, however, as he committed four turnovers. He did have some huge buckets late in the fourth quarter as Chicago was holding off the Cavaliers’ late rally.
Vucevic started out the game blazing hot as he got into double digits less than five minutes in. He finished with nearly a double double of 16 points and nine rebounds along with four dimes. Alex Caruso nearly had a triple-double with 10 points, seven assists, and eight rebounds. He knocked down both of his attempts from 3 and added two steals while racking up a team-best plus-18 in the box score. After some rough performances, this was a nice night from Caruso and one the Bulls really needed to have. Ayo Dosunmu got the start at point guard and had 11 points along with five assists.
Billy Donovan only played four guys off the bench, with Coby White getting the most minutes (20). He really struggled in his time on the court, putting up zero points on only three shot attempts. Tristan Thompson had five points and four boards. Javonte Green had seven points and two rebounds in his 15-minute stint.
Patrick Williams played just 14 minutes, scoring four and pulling down four boards. It was a bit of an interesting minutes rotation for Williams. He didn’t play in the first or third quarter but played nearly the entire second quarter. The youngster started the fourth but quickly got hooked after Cleveland came roaring back to make this a single-digit game. He was struggling on defense against Caris LeVert, letting his man get by him with ease on a couple of occasions. There are only a couple of games left, but the hope is still for Williams to quickly get himself back into the groove of things.
The Cavaliers were led by the 28 points of Garland and the 17 of LeVert. Lauri Markkanen had 14 points and nine rebounds against his old team but fouled out late.
This was another game where the Bulls looked to be in control and then things went suddenly haywire. They still got the victory, but it was one they ended having to grind out instead of coast after they built their big lead. Still, this is a very important win for Chicago at this point in the season. They are now a game ahead of Toronto and two ahead of Cleveland for fifth while having tiebreakers over both. As we head into the final stretch of the season, it was good to see the Bulls end their week by snapping a two-game losing streak and finally winning another meaningful road game.
The Bulls now get a day off before finishing their road trip on a back-to-back against the Knicks and Wizards.