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Find out the scoop on the CAVS from award-winning sports writer Bob Finnan.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Game 42: Bulls at Cavs

Quicken Loans Arena
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Bulls we are accustomed to are depleted. Missing are former MVP Derrick Rose (knee), glue guy Luol Deng (now with the Cavs), power forward Carlos Boozer (calf) and guard Kirk Hinrich (hamstring).

You think that made any difference to the Bulls? Not in the least.

The Bulls are still a formidable foe, and that can be traced to Coach Tom Thibodeau. The guy is not real warm and fuzzy. He has a gruff exterior, but this guy can coach defense. I believe Mike Brown is a good defensive coach. Thibodeau takes it to a new level. 

The Bulls are second in the NBA in points allowed and third in opponents' field-goal percentage. The Cavs are 21st in points allowed and 16th in field-goal percentage. Can you see any difference there?

There was a big difference on Wednesday. The Bulls limited the Cavs to 38 percent shooting from the field. The Bulls shot 53 percent from the floor, 65 percent in the second half.

Their execution is always something that bothers the Cavs. 

Bulls center Joakim Noah also bothered the Cavs. He had nine points, a game-high 18 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal. He had some tough rebounds in traffic. He dominated the boards with 15 defensive rebounds.

Cavs center Anderson Varejao had a double-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. He had as many assists as Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack tonight.

Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson? He just wasn't up for the challenge tonight. He was absolutely shredded by Taj Gibson, who matched his career high with 26 points. Almost all of them came on perimeter jumpers. He was so open out on the floor, he could have send a Tweet before shooting the ball.

Thompson just doesn't like going out on the floor to guard his man. He's most effective in the paint. He ended with just six points and seven rebounds.

Gibson, starting in place of Carlos Boozer, made 11 of 15 shots. Coupled with small forward Mike Dunleavy's 9 of 14, the two players were a combined 20 of 29 from the floor.

Are you getting the message here? The Cavs just didn't defend. My gosh they talk a good game about stopping the other teams. They just don't do it. They are not even in the same zip code of the Bulls. Thibodeau insists the Bulls play "D," or they sit next to him on the bench.

The focus coming into the game was on Deng, making his first appearance against his old team. Truth be told, Deng couldn't have been worse. He did have 11 points and five rebounds, but he wasn't that effective and productive player we've seen thus far. He was just 2 of 11 from the floor.

The Cavs' bench outscored the Bulls, 26-4. That was because Thibodeau didn't have anyone on the bench worth playing. Rookie Tony Snell played 18 scoreless minutes. Nazr Mohammed and Mike James (signed to a 10-day contract on Wednesday) also played, but did nothing. 

Thibodeau rode his starters hard, but they responded like they usually do. The Cavs, meanwhile, bumbled along like they usually do. This is just not working. Why is this such a mess? Is it Irving? Waiters?

This team just doesn't play team basketball. It's made up of too many one-on-one players. Waiters had 13 of his 15 points in the last eight minutes or so. They were all get-out-of-the-way points. All one-on-one, his strength.

Perhaps Cavs general manager Chris Grant needs to do some more wheeling and dealing. Something is drastically wrong with this team. It all lands in the lap of Coach Mike Brown, whether that's fair or not.

If the Cavs keep playing like they have, they'll lose to the Bucks on Friday. It doesn't matter that the Bucks have the worst record in the NBA.

UP NEXT: The Cavs host Milwaukee at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Quicken Loans Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Mike Dunleavy (6-9, 230)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Taj Gibson (6-9, 225)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Joakim Noah (6-11, 232)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Jimmy Butler (6-7, 220)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. D.J. Augustin (6-0, 183)
Cavs - G Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix
Bulls - G Derrick Rose, G Kirk Hinrich
Michael Smith, Derek Richardson, Kevin Scott


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