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Wrap-Up -- The Cavaliers aren’t returning to the postseason for the fifth straight time this season. But there are significant victories along the way.
On Sunday afternoon – at the tail end of a brutal road stretch, having dropped six straight contests and the first three meetings of the season against their Central Division nemesis – the Wine & Gold needed to get a win. And they played like it, dropping the Bulls, 104-101, in a thriller at the United Center.
Five days after the Bulls took a one-sided win at The Q, the Cavaliers put together an outstanding team effort – getting strong contributions from their starters and the bench – to earn their 10th win, and fifth road victory, of the campaign.
Sunday’s was a white-knuckle affair for the entire 48 minutes, with no team leading by double-digits at any point. Neither team shot particularly well, but in the closing seconds the Wine & Gold canned one more shot than Chicago.
The final two minutes of the affair were indicative of Sunday’s nail-biter.
After Matthew Dellavedova’s triple with 2:40 remaining gave Cleveland a two-point edge, Wayne Selden answered with a bomb on the other end to put the Bulls back up one, 101-100, with just over a minute to play.
After misses by both teams on their respective next possessions, the Cavaliers had a chance to take the lead when Rodney Hood worked his way left through the lane and towards the rim, but Robin Lopez blocked his layup attempt.
Lopez’ block, however, bounced right to Alec Burks, who put a short 10-footer up and in for the go-ahead bucket with just 17 seconds remaining.
Kris Dunn missed a layup that would have put the Bulls back in the lead with 8.4 to play, with Ante Zizic grabbing his 14th rebound of the game and feeding Dellavedova, who was immediately fouled.
Cavs bench outscores Bulls, 60-42, in Sunday's win.
Delly canned both free throws to put the Cavaliers up three, then was enough of a nuisance on the defensive end on Chicago’s last possession, bothering Zach LaVine into a missed triple at the buzzer and sealing the deal for Cleveland.
Burks led Cleveland’s starters with 18 points, going 6-of-13 from the floor, including 3-of-7 from deep, adding eight boards and a pair of assists.
Jordan Clarkson notched 18 points of his own, connecting on 8-of-11 shots to go with seven boards and a team-high six assists in just under 22 minutes of work off the bench.
Cedi Osman continued his hot play – finishing with 17 points on 6-for-17 shooting, adding eight boards, two assists and a pair of steals in the win.
Rodney Hood posted his 31st double figure outing of the season, adding 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting to go with two helpers and a pair of steals.
Matthew Dellavedova had an excellent 22-minute run off the bench, steadying the squad and pitching in with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, going 4-of-4 from the stripe and adding four boards and five assists.
Ante Zizic failed to net double figure scoring for just the second time in his last ten starts, but he did lead the Wine & Gold with a career-high 14 boards to go with three assists, a steal and blocked shot.
For the second time in three starts against Cleveland this year, Lauri Markkanen led his team in scoring – doubling-up with game-highs in both points (21) and rebounds (15).
Turning Point -- In a game that featured 14 ties and 23 lead-changes, there wasn’t much time for a turning point.
But the Wine & Gold’s most critical surge of the game came in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter – turning a two-point deficit into an eight-point lead, their largest of the game.
After Bobby Portis’ 11-footer gave the Bulls a two-point lead, 81-79, the Cavs came charging back – with Jordan Clarkson scoring seven straight points, beginning with a triple on Cleveland’s next possession.
Deng Adel’s second triple of the game put the Cavaliers up, 91-83, and forced Chicago to call timeout to regroup. The Bulls would eventually fight back to tie the game, but Cleveland’s mini-run was enough to give themselves some room to work with.
By the Numbers – 19.2, 6.7, .521, .478 … Cedi Osman’s scoring and rebounding averages – plus shooting percentage from the floor and beyond the arc – over his last three games.
Quotable – Coach Larry Drew, on his squad’s clutch performance down the stretch on Sunday …
"We haven’t been in that situation often, but when we do get there, I think it’s important moving forward that we learn how to play down the stretch. We learn how to execute, we learn how to defensively get the stops that we need. Certainly, any time you do that on the road, it makes it that much sweeter, and even better when you’re struggling on the road. We came up with the plays down the stretch that we needed, and therefore we were able to come away with the win."
Up Next -- The Cavaliers wrap up the month of January on Tuesday night with a visit from Bradley Beal and the surging Wizards. In February, the road schedule lightens up considerably. They get a much-needed three-day break before getting their first look this season at Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, who roll in on Saturday night. The following Tuesday night, Kyrie Irving and the Celtics come to Cleveland before the Cavs head to Washington and Indiana for a weekend back-to-back.