The split personality Bulls Saturday led almost the entire game and surprised the Cleveland Cavaliers with a dominant performance and 96-83 victory.
The Bulls raised their record to 25-18 while the Eastern Conference leading Cavaliers fell to 30-12. The Bulls are 2-0 over the Cavaliers this season.
The Bulls were led by Pau Gasol with 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Jimmy Butler had 20 points and nine rebounds, Taj Gibson playing with a mask after an eye injury Friday had 15 points and eight rebounds, Derrick Rose had 12 points and Nikola Mirotic with a big game off the bench had 17 points and five three pointers. LeBron James had 26 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists for the Cavaliers. The Cavs were met with boos when the game ended.
The Bulls were still without Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah and Mike Dunleavy. But they got Gibson after being hit in the eye in Boston Friday, though wearing a mask as coach Fred Hoiberg said Gibson had a corneal abrasion. The Bulls didn’t see the opening fury expected from the Cavs with the coaching change to Tyronn Lue. It was the Cavs who were stumbling, missing their last 16 shots of the first quarter as the Bulls led 21-14 in a brutally slow played quarter.
The Cavs shot 21.4 percent and the Bulls 37 percent. The Cavs rocked back and forth like a raft on stormy seas, first pulling within 23-22 early in the second, the Bulls easing out 37-28 and then the Cavs behind J.R. Smith back within 39-34 with about three minutes left in the first half. Neither tam shot 40 percent as the Bulls led 44-39 at halftime as the Cavs had three free throws, all by James and all missed. Smith was keeping the Cavs in with 12 points while Butler had 13 and Gasol with eight points, six rebounds and six assists.
The Cavs going to James eased back within 49-45 early in the third quarter before the Bulls got some speed from all places but with Gasol and Taj Gibson running the break and Gasol and Mirotic making jump shots in a deliberate Bulls game in which they were back to shooting late in the shot clock. But it was producing with some unusual help from the Cavaliers, who missed 11 of their first 13 free throws through three quarters. The Bulls got a hustling third quarter from Mirotic to head into the fourth quarter leading 72-58. The Bulls took a 77-60 lead early in the fourth quarter as Mirotic hit a third three pointer. But then the Bulls began to get more cautious, walking into isolation jump shots and one and done plays as the Cavs pulled within 79-69 with 5:50 left.