Final Dime: Bulls 100, Cavaliers 91
Ramon Sessions finished with 13 points in Saturday's loss in Chicago.
But the Wine and Gold’s makeshift lineup – plus an inspired effort from J.J. Hickson – kept Cleveland in the ballgame all night. A stagnant third quarter that saw them outscored, 32-9, proved to be the Cavaliers’ undoing, however, as their rally fell short, sending them to the 100-91 loss.
With Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson nursing injuries, the Cavaliers – losers of 16 of their last 17 outings – went with Ramon Sessions, Leon Powe and Manny Harris, and led through almost the entire first half in Chicago.
The Bulls clamped down defensively in the third, holding Cleveland to single-digits in a quarter for the first time this season. The Cavaliers, who went into half up eight, now trailed Chicago by 15 after three periods.
But Byron Scott’s resilient group – led by Hickson – continued to scrap back through the final quarter, cutting the Bulls lead to four, 95-91, with just 36 seconds to play. But Anthony Parker’s two three-point attempts rimmed out, and Luol Deng canned three free throws in the closing seconds to seal the deal for the Division leaders.
“It was a good effort by a team that is very depleted,” said Coach Scott. “I thought in the third quarter they came out a bit upset the way they had played. We seemed to come out feeling good about how we had played in the first half. Overall, I thought our effort was fantastic.”
The Wine and Gold were led by Hickson, who had his second-best performance of the season – netting 21 points and eight boards, going 9-for-16 from the floor and tallying eight of his 21 in the closing quarter.
Antawn Jamison followed up with 19 points, nine boards and a pair of blocks – going 5-for-16 from the field and 7-of-8 from the stripe. Leon Powe, getting the spot start for Varejao, was solid with 14 points and six boards.
“The one thing I do like is the character of this team,” said Jamison. “We were still positive, we still played hard, those are the things you want to do no matter if you're up or down.”
Ramon Sessions followed up a strong effort in Charlotte with 13 points and six boards on Saturday and Manny Harris chipped in with 11. Anthony Parker was the only starter who failed to notch double-figures, but led the squad with eight assists.
The Cavaliers return home following the New Year’s Day game and will welcome Jason Kidd and the equally-hot Mavericks to The Q on Sunday night.
2. J.J. Hickson had another solid outing off the Cavs bench and has notched double-digits in three of his last four games – averaging 13.3 points and 6.7 boards during that span.
3. With 60 percent of the Cavaliers starters on the bench or back in Cleveland, Leon Powe and Manny Harris each got their second starts of the season, with Ramon Sessions getting his seventh start.
4. Coming off a 22-point effort on Wednesday night in Charlotte, Sessions has been hot lately – averaging 15.7 points over his last three games.
5. Anderson Varejao didn’t make the trip to Chicago and won’t play on Sunday against Dallas while he’s fitted for a protective mask from a cheek fracture suffered on Wednesday. Daniel Gibson, suffering from a left inner thigh contusion, wasn’t able to go on Saturday, nor was Mo Williams, out with a left hip flexor strain.
6. Leon Powe and Manny Harris each notched season highs in Saturday night’s loss. An undrafted rookie out of Michigan, Harris’ 11 points were a career-high.
7. Antawn Jamison has continued to be the Cavaliers most consistent performers – averaging an even 19.0 ppg to go with 5.7 rebounds per game over his last nine outings.
8. The Cavaliers are now 0-4 all time on New Year’s Day.
9. As alumni, the Cavaliers did well as the college football bowl games wrap up. J.J. (NC State), Samardo Samuels (Louisville) Joey Graham (Oklahoma State), Antawn Jamison (UNC), Mo Williams and Alonzo Gee (Alabama) were all winners. Manny Harris’ Michigan Wolverines took one on the chin. Ramon Sessions’ Nevada team is the only squad still waiting to play.
10. Even with their starting backcourt in street clothes, the Cavaliers – who have led the league in fewest turnovers at 13.3 per game – committed just 13 miscues on Saturday night in Chicago.
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.