Bulls go down to wire but fall short in Cleveland

The Bulls will not win out this season.

Their seven game winning streak was stopped Thursday by a 115-112 Cleveland Cavaliers win.

Turnovers in the fourth quarter inevitably proved fatal for the Bulls hopes despite several spirited comebacks down the stretch. The Bulls had one last attempt for a tie at the buzzer, but a forced Denzel Valentine three missed badly.

The Bulls fell to 10-21; the Cavaliers are 24-9.

The Bulls were led by Lauri Markkanen with 25 points. The Bulls had five players in double figures as Denzel Valentine had another excellent all around game with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists. Nikola Mirotic finished strong for 15 points. Robin Lopez had 14 and Kris Dunn 10 points and 14 assists. Justin Holiday had eight points and a team best seven rebounds.

The Bulls shot 55.3 percent overall and the Cavs 51.2 percent. LeBron James had 34 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

J.R. Smith was a late scratch for the Cavs while coach Tyrone Lue sat out ill. The Cavs jumped on the Bulls’ for a 10-3 start with fast breaks after Valentine and Holiday turnovers. But the Bulls came back quickly going inside to Lopez against the smaller Cavs and then with the depth that has been making a big difference. Dunn and Grant shot well and the Bulls pulled into a tie before trailing 29-27 after one quarter. The Bulls weren’t as sharp and swift offensively, but there was that resilience and a resuscitation from the recently ordinary Markkanen. The got a pair of scores from Paul Zipser and traded off baskets, though the Cavaliers were capitalizing on some loose ball handling and passing with 14 first half points off turnover. Cleveland hit the Bulls with a late second quarter run to take a 56-48 lead.

But the Bulls responded immediately with a Mirotic three and a driving scoop and two-hand driving slam, the latter two from Markkanen for the Bulls to remain within 58-56 at halftime. Markkanen was seven for 21 averaging 9.5 points the last two games returning from his back spasms. He had 11 points on five of seven shooting in the first half. James had 16 and Kevin Love 13. The Bulls had seven players with at least five points in the half.

Valentine continued his sweet shooting to open the second half with a pair of threes that gave the Bulls a 64-60 lead. And then yet another before Love and Lopez faced off on several possessions. The Bulls went into the timeout at 6:47 leading 71-70. Markkanen then added two more huge plays culminating in a steal on an errant James pass and driving one landed power dunk. The Bulls moved out 77-72 with a Dunn jumper, but James drove the Cavs back ahead 78-77 with 2:39 in the third. The Bulls cold spell continued after that with Dunn’s field goal with 4:43 left in the quarter the Bulls last of the quarter. That enabled the Cavs to go into the fourth quarter leading 82-79. And the the game collapsed on the Bulls, or perhaps the weight of their winning streak. The Bulls opened the fourth quarter with turnovers on each of their first four possessions that the Cavs turned into a 9-0 run and 89-79 lead with 10:15 left in the game. Then in less than a minute the Bulls drove right back in with a Mirotic three and layup on a swift Valentine pass to the rim to make it 89-86 Cavs with 9:08 left.

The Bulls went ahead 92-91 with Valentine and Holiday scores, but were countered by a Cavs barrage of threes for a 103-98 Cleveland lead with four minutes left before Holiday answered with a three to draw the Bulls within 105-101 with 3:17 left. The Bulls got back within 109-106 on a Markkanen three but failed to get two offensive rebounds on the same possession that would lead to Love free throws. But again and again the Bulls came back, in the last seconds with a Mirotic three and Valentine driving score.