Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

How the Bulls matched up with Cleveland this season

Sam Smith looks back at the Bulls' four regular season games against the Cavs

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By Sam Smith | 5.2.2015 | 9:00 a.m.

October 31, 2014: Cavs win 114-108 in overtime

It was Derrick Rose’s home debut after missing most of the previous season but playing for USA Basketball and scoring 13 points in 21 minutes in the opening win in New York. Rose had 20 points, but he sustained a sprained ankle in the first half. He played in the third quarter with two points on one of four shooting in nine minutes and then didn’t return for the fourth quarter or overtime. "The gods, they're testing me right now,” said a disappointed Rose.

The Bulls led by five with 1:15 left on a Kirk Hinrich three as Hinrich tied Rose with 20 points. But the Cavs got a Kyrie Irving three-point play to tie the score with 27.9 seconds left and then the Bulls committed a turnover trying for the win. James then dominated the overtime with the Cavs’ first eight points and the Bulls trailed the entire overtime. James had 36 points, but it was Tristan Thompson with 12 offensive rebounds of his 13 total who made the difference as the Cavs dominated the Bulls on the boards 52-42. Jimmy Butler missed the game with a sprained thumb. Irving had 23 points and was 10 of 10 on free throws.

Jan. 19, 2015: Cavs win 108-94.

One of the Bulls worst losses of the season as the Cavaliers dominated in the Martin Luther King Day game, also on national TV like the last three games between the teams. The Cavs with all five starters in double figures after their big trades for Timofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith led by 15 at halftime and by 23 two minutes into the second half and the Cavs led by double digits the rest of the game. Butler led with 20 points while shooting six of 16 while Rose had 18 points shooting five of 14.

Again, the Bulls could not contain Tristan Thompson and the Cavs dominated on the boards again, 54-40. Irving had 18 points and 12 assists in his second straight strong game against the Bulls. Smith had 20 with six threes. Joakim Noah was out with a sprained ankle.

The game produced coach Tom Thibodeau’s harshest critique of the season when he said, “We've got to decide when enough is enough. We've got to get better. It's really that simple. The way we're playing is not acceptable, so we have to change it." Rose also was his most critical, saying, “Everybody has to be on the same page. Until then we are going to continue to get our (butts) kicked. We’ve got to give a better effort. It seems like we’re not even competing. It’s (bleeping) irritating. Competing wise it seems we’re not there. It should be fun, basketball should be fun.”

Feb. 12, 2015: Bulls win 113-98

This was the Cavs’ pouting game. Cleveland players, especially their guys heading to the All-Star game that weekend for Friday NBA-required events, were upset they were playing the only game of the night, a TNT national broadcast. It was the second of a back to back for them and not the Bulls after an emotional home game the night before against the Miami Heat and LeBron’s buddy Dwyane Wade. Cavs players were grousing even pregame about having to be the team traveling, especially since they felt they had the true stars with James and Kyrie Irving, the latter the reigning All-Star game MVP. Plus, the Cavs came in having won 14 of 15.

Jimmy Butler was out with a shoulder strain for the Bulls and Kevin Love with an eye abrasion for the Cavs as the Bulls still were hanging onto the Central Division lead over Cleveland. It was Derrick Rose’s last big game before his knee surgery with 30 points and seven assists while Tony Snell was in the midst of his best stretch of the season. Snell had 22 points on nine of 11 shooting for the second straight game and good defense on James with Butler out. James had 31 points, but was 12 for 26 with eight turnovers. The Bulls took a 15-point just after halftime, the Cavs got within eight on James’ Jones shooting.

But Rose made a twisting driving layup for a 10-point lead after three and the Bulls then pulled away and were ahead by 19 with five minutes left after a Rose jumper. Joakim Noah brought out the nickname “Snelly Cat” for Snell after Snell’s strong effort. Butler and Pau Gasol then also headed for the All-Star game. Rose struggled after a week off following the All-Star break and then needed surgery for the torn meniscus.

April 5, 2015: Cavs win 99-94

The Bulls didn’t feel as badly with this loss, though James had a triple double with 20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. But Kyrie Irving continued his big season against the Bulls, this time with Rose still out after knee surgery. Irving averaged 21.3 in four games against the Bulls. Irving had 27 points and four of five threes, including a 50 footer with the clock running out in the third quarter and the Cavs ended two quarters with buzzer beating shots. J.R. Smith was eight of 17 on threes as the Cavs made 16 threes.

The Cavs led by nine at halftime and 15 late in the third quarter, though the Bulls made a run and got within five with about three minutes left. Kevin Love and James Jones then made shots to hold off the Bulls. The Bulls had the rebounding edge 45-40. The Bulls were led by Mike Dunleavy with 24 points and looking forward. “There’s no moral victories and we would have liked to have played better,” said Dunleavy. “You lose a game by five, take your hats off to them; great incredible shots, buzzer beaters. They hit those shots they are going to beat a lot of teams. If we have the opportunity to play them down the road, we feel we can play with them.”

Added Joakim Noah, who had a run in with James, “It would be great to play them in the playoffs. Very, very exciting, something I really hope happens. When you get on that court it’s a great place to play basketball; that’s as much love as I’ll give to Cleveland. If the opportunity presents itself and we could play Cleveland, we would be very happy as a team to be able to do that.”