Game 55: Cavs at Bulls
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
1. The Cavaliers have won their first two games against the Bulls this season. One would have never known it on Thursday. They were pounded by Chicago, which has now won four games in a row.
2. Both teams were missing key starters. The Cavs played without power forward Kevin Love, who has a right corneal abrasion. The way he spreads the floor was needed against the Bulls. They like to pack the paint with their two bigs - 7-0 Pau Gasol and 6-11 Joakim Noah. Neither of those players like venturing out to the 3-point line to guard Love. They didn't have to on Thursday, of course. Chicago played without All-Star guard Jimmy Butler, who has a strained right shoulder.
3. The loss of Love severely crippled the Cavs' big-man rotation. Tristan Thompson moved into the starting lineup in Love's place. However, that left no legitimate bigs on the bench, especially since Coach David Blatt won't play Brendan Haywood. Further compounding matters, center Timofey Mozgov got in immediate foul trouble. At one point, Blatt brought James Jones in to play power forward. That's not going to work.
4. The Cavs had won 14 of their previous 15 games. They were never really in the game. They reduced their deficit to seven points late in the game, but could never get over the hump. They dropped to fifth in the Eastern Conference race with a 33-22 record. Chicago now has a one-game lead on the Cavs in the Central Division. The Cavs' 33 wins match their season total from last season.
5. Bulls point guard Derrick Rose was fantastic on Thursday. He finished with 30 points, four rebounds and seven assists. He was 12 of 24 from the field. He torched Cavs All-Star Kyrie Irving, who could not even slow him down. Rose got to the basket, hit jumpers and was the best player on the court. He was in 2011 MVP form.
6. That couldn't be said about Cavs forward LeBron James. He had perhaps the worst 31-point game ever. He turned the ball over eight times, which matched Chicago's total as a team. His plus-minus number was -27. He was 12 of 26 from the field and 2 of 9 from behind the arc.
7. Bulls guard Tony Snell, who replaced the injured Butler, was outstanding. He made 9 of 11 shots for 22 points.
8. Those who have watched the Bulls this season say they haven't been defending like they have in the past. That's Coach Tom Thibodeau's trademark. They certainly looked good on Thursday. They held the Cavs to 43.5 percent shooting from the field. The Cavs weren't able to throw all those lobs to Mozgov like they did in the win over Miami. The Bulls have legitimate rim protectors in Gasol and most notably Noah. Noah might not be one of those warm and fuzzy guys, but he can flat out play and he's as tough as nails. Noah finished with 10 points, a game-high 15 rebounds, a team-high seven assists and one block. He's a flat-out winner.
9. The Cavs dropped to 12-13 on the road. They are also 5-4 in the Central Division. They've now lost all every team in the Central Division this season.
10. James (6,118) passed former Celtics great John Havlicek (6,114) for the second-most assists by a forward in NBA history. Chicago's Scottie Pippen (6,135) is first on the list. Pippen was at Thursday's game.
UP NEXT: at Washington, Verizon Center, 8 p.m. Feb. 20
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Mike Dunleavy (6-9, 230)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Joakim Noah (6-11, 232)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Tony Snell (6-7, 200)
Bulls - G Kirk Hinrich, G Jimmy Butler
Mike Callahan, Nick Buchert, Scott Wall