Game 42: Bulls at Cavs
Quicken Loans Arena
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
1. TNT's audience certainly got an eye full of how good the Cavs can be. If they continue to defend like this, they will be in the NBA Finals in June. Yes, those are bold words, but that's how well they played.
2. This was the official start of the second half of the season. The first half was a blur. Lots of drama ... and injuries. At the beginning of the season, prognosticators thought these would be the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. That hasn't been the case. The Central Division-leading Bulls have the fourth-best record in the East and the Cavs are sixth. But there's still plenty of time to catch up. The Cavs are 4 1/2 games behind Chicago with 40 games to play. Coach David Blatt predicts there will be some movement in the teams ahead of the Cavs. He was referring to his own team, and its prospects of moving up.
3. The Cavs are now 2-0 vs. Chicago this season. That might come into play later in the season once tie-breakers are relevant. The Cavs slipped past Chicago, 114-198, in overtime on Oct. 31. The Cavs trailed by five points with 47 seconds left in regulation and somehow got it to overtime. LeBron James scored eight points in OT to pull out the victory at the United Center.
4. The Bulls missed center Joakim Noah's intensity tonight. Pau Gasol shifted to center, but was no match for Cavs big man Timofey Mozgov. Mozgov was a beast with 15 points, a game-high 15 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Gasol had 11 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. His numbers were good, with the exception of his 4 of 14 shooting. Mozgov seems to be rounding into form with the Cavs. He's averaging 9.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.0 block since coming to the team. He's shooting 53.5 percent from the field in that span.
5. The Cavs had three players with double-doubles: Mozgov, point guard Kyrie Irving (18 points, matched his career high with 12 assists) and power forward Kevin Love (16 points, 12 rebounds). Love has been bothered by back spasms, but looked like he moved around pretty good last night.
6. Swingman Jimmy Butler is the Bulls' leading scorer at 20.6 points per game. He is the leading candidate for the Most Improved Player. Suddenly, he's a stud. He's always been a strong defender - he guarded LeBron James - but now he's a big-time scorer as well. He finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. He was 6 of 16 from the field with James guarding him.
7. Cavs forward/center Tristan Thompson is on a roll. He pulled down 10 rebounds off the bench. Coach David Blatt has shortened his bench to eight players, even though he played everyone last night. The Cavs led by 25 points at one point in the second half before the Bulls made it a game in the late going.
8. The Bulls' vaunted defense has sprung a leak. They have allowed 100 or more points in five consecutive games, including 121 to Orlando. They are allowing 103.1 points and a league-worst 49.6 percent shooting in their last eight games. They've lost six of the last eight contests.
9. When scoring 100 or more points this season, the Cavs are 10-0 at home, 17-4 overall. The century mark is a magical number for them.
10. This was the fourth time this season the Cavs have had three players grab 10 or more rebounds (Mozgov, Love, Thompson). They also tied their season high with 20 offensive rebounds. They also pulled down 35 rebounds at halftime, a season high. They've averaged 53 rebounds in two games vs. Chicago this year.
UP NEXT: vs. Utah, Quicken Loans Arena, 7 p.m. Wednesday
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Pau Gasol (7-0, 255)
Bulls - C Joakim Noah, G/F Mike Dunleavy