Not only did the Bulls (10-16) end their four-game losing streak Saturday night at the United Center, they did so in triumphant fashion, putting on an offensive show in their 100-84 victory over Cleveland (10-16), even without the services of the starting perimeter trio of shooting guard Jimmy Butler (right ankle), All-Star small forward Luol Deng (left Achilles’) and point guard Kirk Hinrich (back).
Carlos Boozer (19 points, nine rebounds) helped the Bulls get off to a quick start in the opening period, but he was far from the only player to be feeling it offensively. With point guard D.J. Augustin (18 points, 10 assists), who was also an outside threat, running the show, the Bulls were both unselfish and efficient, as rookie swingman Tony Snell (17 points, 5-for-8 3-point shooting), All-Star center Joakim Noah (11 points, 18 rebounds) and top reserve Taj Gibson (15 points) got it going, too.
The Cavaliers big-man tandem of power forward Tristan Thompson and center Andrew Bynum (19 points, seven rebounds) made an impact, but the suddenly high-scoring Bulls shot 64.7 percent from the field en route to a 33-26 lead after a quarter of play.
The second quarter was more of the same, as Noah dominated the glass and Augustin continued to be in command of the offense, outplaying Cleveland All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving (14 points, five assists).
While the Cavaliers got contributions off the bench from the likes of veteran Anderson Varejao and undrafted rookie guard Matthew Dellavedova, the Bulls also got assistance from their second unit, as backup center Nazr Mohammed made his presence felt, resulting in a 60-43 advantage at the intermission.
After the break, the Bulls finally started to cool off a bit and Cleveland capitalized, trimming the deficit to single digits behind the play of Bynum, who has excelled in the two teams’ meetings this season. But Noah, his center counterpart, responded with stellar all-around play, and courtesy of a late third-quarter spurt, the Bulls headed into the final stanza with a 68-57 edge.
Snell’s outside marksmanship, Noah’s work on the boards and Augustin’s playmaking continued to be the major themes of the Bulls’ success in the fourth period. They coasted throughout the frame, completing an affair in which they played well on both ends of the floor — Cleveland shot 40 percent from the field — heading into a rare stretch where their injured players will be able to recover from their various injuries, as they don’t play until a Christmas Day matinee in Brooklyn.