The Bulls Thursday played it a little cavalier at times and came out of the All-Star break with a 106-95 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Bulls also will move forward without any major changes as the NBA trading deadline passed Thursday with the Bulls only trading Kirk Hinrich to the Atlanta Hawks.
The Bulls were led by Derrick Rose with 28 points and seven rebounds. Pau Gasol had 14 points and nine rebounds. The Bulls got aggressive play from Bobby Portis off the bench with 13 points and 10 rebounds. LeBron James had 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Kyrie Irving had 19 points.
The Bulls fell to 27-26 and will try to stay above .500 Friday at home against Atlantic leader Toronto. The Cavs lead the Eastern Conference at 39-14. The Bulls are 2-1 against the Cavaliers this season. It was the Bulls 14th loss in their last 19 games, fifth consecutive loss and seventh in the last eight.
It was a further undermanned Bulls team Thursday facing the Cavaliers with Hinrich traded earlier in the day. Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic were not with the team due to injuries and surgeries. With Butler out, the Bulls started Mike Dunleavy against James, and James took advantage to begin with the first eight Cavs points in an 8-2 start. The Bulls began to recover behind Rose with a three and a fabulous, switch hands driving scoop for a three-point play. The Bulls were within 17-15 when Rose went out, but the Cavs pulled ahead 26-19 at the end of the first quarter with a 17-9 edge on the boards, eight from Kevin Love in the first quarter. Rose had eight points for the Bulls. The Cavs reserves couldn’t do much as the game dragged into the first four minutes of the second quarter with the Cavs ahead 28-23. But with James returning and returning to playmaker, the Cavs began to cut up the Bulls, who searched for scoring without Butler and Mirotic, the two leading scorers in the two previous Bulls wins over Cleveland. The Bulls behind Rose’s 18 first half points pushed back and with a Dunleavy jumper closed the half within 48-42.
The game got a bit angry in the third quarter as J.R. Smith and Taj Gibson engaged in some bumping running down court and ensuing shoving that resulted in double technical with the Cavs ahead 58-46. And then Dunleavy and Kyrie Irving came together and Irving went down hard. It enlivened the crowd and with the Cavs trapping Rose and forcing a turnover ran into a James lob dunk for a 65-48 Cleveland lead and James dancing into a timeout.
But back came the Bulls again with Gasol and Portis getting active on the offensive boards as the Bulls got within 71-58 with 2:34 left and went into the fourth quarter trailing 78-64. Gasol had 10 points in the third quarter. The Cavs stretched it out early in the fourth quarter to lead 88-70. With 3:30 left the Bulls cleared the bench.