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In a game as tight as Monday night’s, it doesn’t take much to push one team over the top.
In an old-fashioned Central Division brawl, the Cavaliers and Bulls went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes, but the final result might’ve boiled down to a simple offensive rebound that sealed the deal for Chicago – which took the 108-103 decision at the United Center.
The loss snapped Cleveland’s two-game win streak and gave the Bulls the 3-1 edge in the season series as the Wine & Gold tipped off a six-game road trip.
The Cavaliers were down 10 with less than five minutes to play, but back-to-back triples from Matthew Dellavedova got them back within striking distance. Cleveland continued to claw its way back, getting to within two on Andre Drummond’s tip-in with 38 seconds remaining.
With 13.5 to play, trailing 105-103, the Cavaliers flummoxed rookie Coby White into a bad shot on Chicago’s next possession. But Shaquille Harrison snuck through the Cavs defenders to grab the Bulls’ 14th offensive rebound of the night.
Harrison was fouled by Drummond and drilled both free throws to put Chicago up two possessions to essentially seal the deal.
Both teams shot 50 percent from the floor, but the Bulls held a 46-35 edge on the boards and canned a dozen triples to Cleveland’s six.
Collin Sexton led the Cavs once again – finishing with a game-high 26 points on 12-of-16 shooting, adding three boards, five assists and a steal.
Drummond followed up with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, adding seven boards, two assists, a pair of steals and a block despite battling foul trouble for much of the second half.
Kevin Love added 17 points despite not shooting the ball well – going just 5-of-16 from the floor. But Cleveland’s five-time All-Star led the squad with eight boards, adding seven assists and a steal in the loss.
Larry Nance Jr. had no such trouble from the floor – going 6-for-6, including both three-point attempts, adding four boards, six assists, a pair of steals and a blocked shot to the mix.
In a smaller sample size, Delly was also perfect from the floor – going 3-for-3, including those two big fourth-quarter bombs, while leading both squads with eight assists to go with eight points, two boards, a steal and blocked shot. Over his last five games, the Aussie import has tallied 46 helpers.
Chicago’s White – the lightning-quick sharpshooter from North Carolina – led the Bulls with 20 points and five assists in his first career start.
Out in transition, Cedi Osman crossed up his defender and slammed home a powerful two-handed dunk.
Tuesday’s contest was nip-and-tuck the entire way, featuring 19 ties and 11 lead-changes. After three quarters of play – with Cleveland up two after one quarter, Chicago up two at half and the score knotted at 78 after three – neither team led the other by more than a touchdown.
In a game like that, it only takes one run to get some breathing space – and the Bulls went on that mini-run early in the fourth quarter.
After Alfonzo McKinnie tied the score at 83-apiece on a putback off a Collin Sexton miss, the Bulls proceeded to go on a 14-4 run – with Denzel Valentine, Tomas Satoransky and Otto Porter Jr. all drilling three-pointers.
The Cavs would eventually cut Chicago’s lead back to a deuce on Kevin Love’s triple with 1:26 to play, but the Wine & Gold couldn’t get over the hump from there.
13.1, 7.9 … Larry Nance Jr.’s scoring and rebounding averages over the last 24 games since returning from a knee injury – netting double-figures in 19 of them.
Over that stretch, the fifth-year man from Wyoming has handed out at least three assists in 13 games and is shooting 57 percent from the floor and 38 percent from long-range overall, with nine double-doubles in the mix.
Coach J.B. Bickerstaff, on veteran guard Matthew Dellavedova …
"I haven't been around a guy with a higher basketball IQ and the ability to orchestrate the league the way that he can. He's a marvel with that ball in his hand, making plays and the way that he reads the defense. He's a jewel for sure."
Enjoy the best broadcast calls of the night from Cavaliers Radio Network's Tim Alcorn and 87.7 La Mega's Rafa Hernandez-Brito.
The Cavaliers six-game roadie rolls on – with a back-to-back set this weekend, traveling to Charlotte for a Friday night meeting with the Hornets followed by a Saturday night matchup against Trae Young and the Hawks in Atlanta.
The following week, the Wine & Gold travel to Houston on Tuesday followed by a stop in Orlando on Thursday night before wrapping up the trip on Saturday night in Indiana.