CLEVELANDWhen pressed about Derrick Roses status the superstar point guard missed his third consecutive game with a left-toe injury Tom Thibodeau insisted, We have more than enough to win, during his pregame media availability.
He proved to be correct, as the Bulls (14-3) thrashed Cavaliers (6-8), 114-75, at Quicken Loans Arena, marking Clevelands most lopsided home defeat in the history of the organization.
The visitors jumped out to a 6-0 start and looked prepared to run the Cavaliers out of their own building in the early going, as a balanced Bulls offense Carlos Boozer (19 points, 14 rebounds), Luol Deng (21 points, eight rebounds) and Rip Hamilton (13 points) all were major factors appeared to overwhelm their inexperienced opponents.
However, paced by No. 1 overall draft pick Kyrie Irving (13 points) the rookie point guard proved adept at penetrating out of pick-and-rolls, shooting from deep range and finishing at the rim and the home teams longest-tenured player, active big man Anderson Varejao (14 points, seven rebounds), Cleveland quickly climbed back into the contest.
While Irvings high-scoring opening period certainly thrilled the fans at the Q and made the game a close-knit affair, his supporting cast allowed Chicago to obtain some breathing room as time waned on.
C.J. Watson (15 points, seven assists), again starting in place of Rose, blended scoring and playmaking to have a quietly effective frame running the show, while Joakim Noahs (eight points, 10 rebounds) energetic effort on the boards also contributed to the guests holding a 34-26 advantage after a quarter of play.
Interior defense provided by usual suspects Omer Asik and Taj Gibson, part of an effort that recorded a franchise-record and NBA season-high 16 blocked shots -- as well as instant offense from John Lucas III -- propelled the Bulls early in the second stanza, as they extended their lead to double digits.
The never-bashful Lucas kept the Bulls afloat through the midway point of the period, as the hot-shooting visitors maintained their comfortable winning margin over their hosts.
Said Boozer: We all knew we had to step it up without him Rose being out there.
To be honest, I was proud of our guys. It seemed like across the board, everybody did a great job. Our bench came out, played great tonight. The starters played great tonight. It was one of those nights when everything was clicking, he continued. Other than the All-Star Game and the Olympics, this is by far the deepest team Ive been on. Youve got guys who could be starting for other teams. Usually, most teams, they go to their bench and they feel a drop-off. We go to our bench and were even. Some games, they pick it up for us.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau gradually inserted regulars back into the game, but Cleveland responded, slashing its deficit via transition offense and Chicagos own offense getting out of rhythm.
Toward the end of the half, however, Hamilton took things into his own hands creating a dunk for Noah off a curl and a triple for Deng off a cross-court pass, before knocking down a pull-up jumper of his own on a fast break to again widen the gap and sending the Bulls into the intermission with a 63-44 lead.
Great scorer, great defender, makes great decisions when he gets the ball. Youve got to remember, hes played on championship teams and has been in this league for a long time, so theres not too much that he hasnt seen and he brings that experience to our ballclub. Shoot the ball when hes open, when he gets double-teamed, makes the right play, gushed Boozer about his teammate. Thats the key, though. Listen, you can always pass the ball out. He makes the right play every time. Theres a big difference from throwing it out and starting over, and hitting the man thats open.
Although the Bulls health woes didnt improve Gibson left the contest with a sprained left ankle and Lucas also departed after suffering a strained left groin they maintained their wide cushion, as Watson played distributor. Boozer, whose mid-range jumper and post-up game were both clicking, mainly handled the scoring duties.
I thought we did a great job of just coming out ready to play. Cleveland, theyre better than what their record says and I think theyre going to keep on getting better as the year goes on. We came out early and we were really locked in from the start. Even the third quarter, we finished the half well and came out in the third quarter, and kept that intensity on them, said Deng.
Were doing a great job of moving the ball. Were playing well together. C.J. was hurt, Rip was hurt, so having those guys out there and just playing with them, were doing a great job of just using everyone.
While Varejao remained effective for the Cavs, Noah and Boozer dominated the glass for the visitors.
With Irving cooled off since his explosive first quarter and veteran forward Antawn Jamison, in particular, struggling from the floor, Cleveland found it difficult to score against Chicagos stout defense. With the added bonus of Deng also chipping in with a typically steady performance, the Bulls took an 85-61 edge into the fourth quarter.
Carlos has been playing extremely well. Hes playing at a very high level, rebounding the ball well, scoring, making plays. Hes playing a complete game. His defense is very good. Joakim is playing with a lot of energy, C.J. is running the team great. Rip is Ripruns the floor, makes plays, plays defenseand then Luol, playing great defense. He provides a great intensity for your team. And then I thought our bench was terrific, said Thibodeau.
I think our wings are doing a really good job of running the floor and running through, and thats allowing Carlos to get some deep post-ups in transition before the defense is set. But Rip is great veteran leadership, very unselfish, plays to win and creates shots for everybody.
The game quickly turned into a laugher in the final period, as the gap between the teams continued to swell, Cavs fans began to boo the home team and Thibodeau inserted the likes of Bulls fan favorite Brian Scalabrine, rookie swingman Jimmy Butler and new acquisition Mike James, who recorded his first points as a Bull, into the lineup.
Sharpshooter Kyle Korver (14 points) carried the load in the extended garbage time, but it wasnt as if his efforts were absolutely vital, as the defeated hosts simply gave up on plays as the rout went on.
I loved the way we moved the ball to start the game. I thought our offense was terrific. Defensively, I didnt like our first quarter, but I thought we picked it up as we went along, Thibodeau concluded.
The turnovers, we got careless in the second half, so thats something weve got to clean up, but overall, I thought we had a lot of guys step up and play well.