Like the Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and do-it-all forward Taj Gibson, the Bulls defense sat this one out.
The principles in which the Bulls had dominated their Central Division foes coming into tonight’s game – winners of 11 straight against the Cavaliers by an average of 17.8 points, and 21.7 this season –were noticeably absent in the 101-98 loss.
Despite 19 lead changes and being tied seven times, the Bulls were out-hustled to loose balls, defensive rotations were poor and the only life they exhibited was during a furious comeback attempt that fell short in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Carlos Boozer led the way for the Bulls with a game-high 27 points. Luol Deng added 26.
After the Cavaliers had gained a 87-78 advantage with 7:33 remaining on two uncontested layups, the Bulls picked up their focus.
Boozer scored eight of the Bulls' next 12 points and a Kirk Hinrich 3-pointer closed their deficit to 93-92 with less than three minutes remaining. But it would be as close as they would get, as the Cavaliers responded with two baskets by Dion Waiters (25 points) and Luke Walton to go ahead by five with 1:21 remaining.
Shaun Livingston’s free throws with 15 seconds remaining gave Cleveland a 100-98 lead and the game was sealed when Boozer committed a bad pass trying to inbound the ball, awarding the Cavaliers with possession.