Jeff Haynes/NBAE/Getty Images

Bulls soar into All-Star break

Bulls improve to 34-20 on the season

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

By Sam Smith | 2.12.2015 | 9:34 p.m. CT

Thursday, the Bulls headed into the All-Star break looking like stars.

Led by Derrick Rose with 30 points and seven assists, the Bulls led from early in the first quarter and pulled away in the fourth quarter with big shots from Tony Snell for a 113-98 victory.

It was a tour de force all around effort from the Bulls as they dominated the Cavs, who had been the hottest team in the league. Pau Gasol added 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for his 14th consecutive double/double. Snell was terrific with 22 points while keeping LeBron James with 31 points from dominating the game. Joakim Noah added 10 points and 15 rebounds. Taj Gibson added 13 points in a strong bench effort.

The Bulls moved their record to 34-20 with their first win this season over the Cavs in three games. The Cavs fell to 33-22.

The Bulls were missing Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler while Kevin Love could not go for the Cavs after sustaining an eye injury Wednesday. The Bulls got a big first quarter from East All-Star starting center Pau Gasol to take a 30-26 lead after one. The Bulls pulled ahead 48-34 in the second quarter with Rose back and attacking the rim and Taj Gibson posting up inside as the Cavs went to a small lineup with Timofey Mozgov in foul trouble. But the Cavs closed within 55-47 at halftime as James had a quiet 12 points while Rose and Gasol combined for 25. The Bulls opened the third quarter with five straight points and midway through the quarter led 74-59 when James became more active in directing the Cavs offense and scoring. The Cavs pulled within 83-74 before Rose closed the third quarter with a spectacular full court rush through the entire Cavs team for an 87-77 Bulls lead after three.

Observations:

1. Derrick Rose continues to show aggression that reminds you of his earlier days before his knee injuries as he regularly drove into multiple Cavs defenders and finished or drew double teams and foul Gasol wide open for jumpers. Rose had 26 points and zero turnovers through three quarters.

2. Tony Snell suddenly has looked like he’s been a regular all season with aggressive defense on LeBron James with Butler out and looking for his offensive opportunities. Coach Tom Thibodeau relied so much on Snell’s defense he substituted Snell every time James came in or out of the game to keep Snell on James.

3. An intriguing strategy between these teams will be whether the Bulls size can outplay the Cavs speed. The Cavs continually went with smaller three and four-guard lineups while the Bulls stayed big trying to get Taj Gibson or Pau Gasol inside to take advantage of matchups.