The Chicago Bulls were already heavy favorites heading into the matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, and when the news broke that Kyrie Irving would not play, it was pretty much game over even before tip. After all, the Cavs would not have the services of two of their best three players in Irving and Anderson Varejao, while the Bulls had their full roster at their disposal.
The Cavs were able to stay competitive early, but they were not able to sustain it against a far more talented Bulls team that rolled to a 112-91 victory. Luol Deng rebounded from a couple tough shooting nights to lead the Bulls with 24 points on 9-14 shooting, including 4-4 from deep. Derrick Rose chipped in with 19 points and nine assists, and Carlos Boozer recorded his fifth straight double-double against the Cavs with 13 points and 11 boards.
The Bulls' offense was humming all night, as they shot 52.8 percent and racked up 31 assists. It was the seventh time this season the Bulls have handed out 30 assists or more as a team, which is pretty ridiculous considering no other team has done it more than three times. When the Bulls move the ball like that, they are almost impossible to beat.
While the Bulls' offense put forth a nearly flawless effort, the defense decided to show up to the game about a quarter late. The Cavs stuck around early thanks to a 28-point first quarter that saw Antawn Jamison and Ramon Sessions do their best [insert your favorite point guard/power forward duo here] impression. Jamison had nine points in the first frame, while Sessions had eight points and three assists.
The game remained a one-point game four minutes into the second quarter before a 19-5 Bulls run stretched the lead out to 53-38 with 2:39 left in the half. The Bulls settled on a 56-44 lead at the break and then coasted the rest of the way to an easy victory.
The victory was capped off in the final minutes with a three-pointer by Brian Scalabrine, which incredibly enough, was the "White Mamba's" FIRST three as a Bull. I know the guy does not play that much, but considering he's known for having a pretty nice jumper, it's kind of crazy that it took that long for him to hit a trey in a Bulls uniform.
With the victory, the Bulls became the first 30-win team in the NBA this season. And because of the Miami Heat loss later in the night (a loss which set Twitter ablaze), the Bulls moved back into the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The two teams are still tied in the loss column, but the Bulls are on top by virtue of playing more games.
The Bulls will now move on to a far tougher test when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. The Bulls will be out for some revenge, as the last they traveled to Philly on Feb. 1, they were thoroughly thumped. The Bulls were without Deng and Rip Hamilton in that game, but I'm not sure it would have mattered much even if they played. The Bulls lacked energy all night and were simply run out of the building.
I would expect a much better effort this time around, and hey, perhaps we'll actually get to see Hamilton play some meaningful minutes in a game. It's been a long, long time since that happened.
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