Shorthanded Cavs Bounce Bulls
Wrap-Up – The Wine and Gold came to the Windy City having dropped their last 11 to the Bulls – the last six by an average of over 27 points per contest. But Chicago was facing a different Cavaliers club on Tuesday night, and Byron Scott’s squad turned the tables – handing the struggling Bulls a 101-98 loss despite being without their All-Star guard, Kyrie Irving.
The contest was tight from the opening tip – featuring seven ties and 19 lead changes. Neither team led by double-digits at any point, but the Cavaliers took a lead midway through the third quarter on Luke Walton’s jumper and never gave it back. Chicago cut Cleveland’s seven-point edge to just a point with under three minutes to play, but a big bucket by Dion Waiters, a clutch offensive rebound by Shaun Livingston and an incredible defensive play by Walton preserved the victory.
Waiters was on-target again, leading Cleveland with 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting. Livingston, starting in place of the injured Irving, added 15 points and Wayne Ellington pitched in with 13 points off the bench. Alonzo Gee chipped in with 11 points and Tristan Thompson finished with 10 points and eight boards.
The Cavaliers bench outscored Chicago’s reserves, 36-19.
Turning Point – Closing quarters on the road can be the difference in the entire game, and the Wine and Gold closed all three of the final periods strong. Waiters’ pull-up jumper with 3.7 seconds to play in the first half tied the game at 48-apiece and Wayne Ellington’s three-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer (compounded by a Joakim Noah technical foul) sent the Cavs into the final quarter with a five-point lead. Both buckets quieted the crowd and kept momentum on Cleveland’s side.
Game Ball – Luke Walton – Even Coach Scott admitted that if they gave out game balls, Walton would’ve won one on Tuesday. The 10-year vet did a little bit of everything to help the Cavaliers’ cause – netting eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, grabbing five boards and leading the team with five assists. But his best play didn’t end up in the boxscore. With 15.1 seconds to play and the Cavs up four, the Bulls tried in-bounding the ball after a Livingston free throw, but Walton cut in front of Carlos Boozer’s pass and, while falling out of bounds, threw the ball off Kirk Hinrich. Cleveland kept possession and closed out the victory.
By the Numbers – 14 … Games in which Dion Waiters has led the Cavaliers in scoring this season. Tuesday’s game was the 10th time the rookie from Syracuse has topped the 20-point plateau and – including his game two nights ago against Miami – is 21 for his last 33 attempts from the floor.
Quotable – Bulls coach Tom Thibedeau, on Cleveland’s reserves in Tuesday’s win …
”Their bench crushed us.”
Up Next – After wrapping up the three-game roadie, the Cavaliers return home for the next five, beginning with Wednesday night’s matchup against the Raptors. They welcome Blake Griffin and the Clippers on Friday and face the Knicks, Jazz and Grizzlies next week at The Q.