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Saturday’s matchup in Chicago was essentially a case of the Cavaliers being unable to get over the hump. That, and the third quarter blues.
The Bulls led by just two at the break, but Cleveland went cold after half and fell behind by double figures heading into the fourth. In the final period, the Cavs cut Chicago’s 16-point lead to just three with 3:23 to play, but could get no closer – dropping the 106-96 decision at the United Center.
Playing without their leading scorer Zach LaVine, the Bulls got huge production from their bench, offsetting an outstanding combined performance by Cleveland’s starting backcourt.
With the season getting into the homestretch and the Cavaliers on the heels of Chicago for the East’s final Play-In spot, J.B. Bickerstaff’s team could’ve used Saturday’s game against a wounded Bulls squad, instead falling three full games behind them with the loss.
The Cavaliers had shaken their third quarter issues in each of their last three road wins, but they reared their ugly head on Saturday. Chicago scored the first five points after intermission and shot 60 percent in the period, outscoring the Cavs by a dozen points and putting them in a bind the rest of the way.
Darius Garland tied a career-high that he set earlier this year, leading both squads with 12 assists to go with a team-high-tying 22 points, going 9-for-21 from the floor, including 4-of-8 from deep, adding two boards and a steal.
Garland was a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range in the fourth quarter.
Collin Sexton added 22 points of his own, going 8-for-20 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from long-range and 3-of-4 from the stripe, adding five boards and a pair of assists.
Kevin Love finished with his second double-double in his past three outings, notching 14 points and game-high-tying 11 boards despite struggling from beyond the arc for the second straight game.
Jarrett Allen notched his seconds straight double-double, chipping in with 10 points and 11 boards.
Isaac Okoro rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures, finishing with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-4 from deep. Okoro did an excellent job on the defensive end, as well, holding Coby White to eight points on 2-for-10 shooting.
The Bulls were led by Nikola Vucevic, who tallied 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting, going 3-of-5 from deep, adding seven boards, five assists and a pair of steals. Both Lauri Markkanen (16 points) and Denzel Valentine (13) had big nights off Billy Donovan’s bench.
Miss any of the action? Find all the highlights and photos in the Game Tracker.
Larry Nance Jr. passes off to Isaac Okoro on the fast break, as Okoro goes up and hits a lay-up through a hard foul.
The Cavaliers’ third-quarter struggles got them in a double-digit hole, but they still had myriad opportunities in the fourth.
Down 80-70 to start the final quarter, Cleveland scored the first seven points to get to within three. The Bulls would run their edge to 10 points with 7:03 to play. But again, the Cavs cut it to three – 96-93 – on Darius Garland’s triple with 3:23 to go.
But the Bulls would go on a 10-0 run from there – with Nikola Vucevic’s three-pointer with 1:49 remaining (following a costly Cavs turnover) proved to be the backbreaker.
By the Numbers - 14.0, 11.0, .600 … Jarrett Allen’s scoring and rebounding averages, along with his shooting percentage (15-for-25) in three games since returning from a concussion.
In 35 games with the Wine & Gold, the fourth-year man from Texas is 13.8ppg, 9.8rpg and shooting .621 from the floor.
"Obviously, tonight was incredibly frustrating because we knew what was in front of us. And that was a great opportunity for us to come in here and get a win, especially with us having our strength in numbers like we always talk about. They had LaVine out and a couple guys just coming back, like Satoransky. Throughout our entire lineup, we felt like we were pretty engaged. I wouldn’t say we laid and egg, but I’d say we didn’t show what we were capable of."
Enjoy the best broadcast calls of the night from Cavaliers Radio Network's Tim Alcorn and Rafa Hernandez-Brito from Power 89.1.
The Cavs stay on the road and within the Central Division – taking on the Pistons on Monday night in Motown.
Cleveland comes home for a rematch with the Bulls on Wednesday night, but get right back on the road for a pair – traveling to Charlotte on Friday then taking on Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and the Wizards for the first time this season next Sunday.
The following night, they travel to face the Raptors in Florida before coming home to end the month with two at home – welcoming Orlando and the Wizards to town.