This game resembled an elite 1500 meters race. The runners pacing themselves until the final stretch. In that stretch, the lead runner makes his move to hold off the challengers.
That is what happened at the United Center on Friday night, as the Bulls had a “statement” win over the defending NBA champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers, 111-105.
The Bulls had a strong third quarter and clung to the fourth quarter lead, despite several pushes by the Cavs and LeBron James. The Cavs, now mired in a three game losing streak, looked very good and ordinary in a matter of moments. The Bulls played hard, and gave forth a concerted team effort. They made the effort plays, coming up with loose balls and rebounds in the closing minutes to hold off Cleveland.
This game was a shoot-out, both teams seemed to score at will. Cleveland led 60-59 at the half. The crowd did not appear to be in the game, perhaps sitting back because at any moment, James could explode and take over the game.
James had 27 points and also 8 turnovers. He made some brilliant passes for 13 assists, but threw the ball away as well. Despite shooting 54%, the Cavs lost; mainly because Chicago’s starting five all scored in double-figures. And, the Bulls just wanted to win this game. They lost to the Los Angeles Lakers a few nights ago, and the team took that game to heart. They came out focused and determined to play better. The Bulls outrebounded Cleveland 49-33.
Jimmy Butler had 26 points and got to the foul-line to hit free-throws. Dwyane Wade looked like an All-Star with some of the moves he made. He finished with 24 points. Taj Gibson had maybe his best game of the season hitting his first 9 shots and going on to score 23 important points. He also grabbed 11 rebounds. And, Rajon Rondo had his first triple-double as a member of the Bulls, scoring 15, hauling in 11 boards, and making 12 assists. Robin Lopez had 10 points and played a strong game a center.
The Bulls bench did not play great but this night belonged to the starters. After the game, Rondo was interviewed on television and said he wanted to win this game. The Bulls (11-7) are off to a good start for the young season. It’s a long season. Wade is taking tomorrow night off and will not play in the next game vs. the Mavericks in Dallas. Doug McDermott is working his way back to the court following concussion protocol and Michael Carter-Williams is also dealing with injuries.
The Bulls played well and beat the Cavs, who will likely be a force as the season progresses.