The Midwest saw a surprise last breath of winter 2020 with some flurries in the forecast this week. The Midwest also saw another surprise in Cleveland last night as the Cleveland Cavaliers cracked the short two-game win streak against the Chicago Bulls with a final of 121–105.
After two well deserved wins against Cleveland on Saturday and the Boston Celtics (yes, you read that right) on Monday, the Bulls came into this matchup with a win probability of over 50%. However, low point scoring, costly turnovers and poor defense cost the Bulls this game. For the Cavaliers, this was a great rebound from the loss in Chicago. Showing what a young team can do, even without their head coach in the arena.
Cleveland Cavaliers Highlights
Put simply, this was not the same team the Bulls played a week earlier. On Saturday, the Cavaliers struggled against the Bulls on defense, allowing them to shoot 50% behind the horn and 40% in the paint. Last night, the Bulls shot only 35% outside the circle and 49% for field goals. Along with spotless defense, the team was led by their on-fire point guard Collin Sexton, who led the team with 30 points, 3 rebounds and 7 assists. Not far behind him was Darius Garland at 25 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists. To put into perspective on how well these two Cavaliers played last night, Garland and Sexton scored more three-point shots than all the Chicago Bulls starters combined. While those two were on fire, Kevin Love was another key contributor to Cleveland’s victory, giving the team nine rebounds (tied with Jarrett Allen).
The success of last night’s game came from the physicality of Cleveland’s game and taking advantage of their opponents’ faults early, mainly their turnovers. Almost 30 percent of their scoring came off a Bulls turnover, which has been a season-long struggle. The Cavaliers also play their best games when they take the lead early and spend little to no time fighting for it. The team saw their largest lead of 33 pretty early on in the game, and continued to keep the Bulls at bay. Now with their first win in almost a week, the Cavaliers will catch a flight to Charlotte to face the Hornets.
Chicago Bulls Highlights
Coming into this game, the Bulls coaching staff had to recognize the position the team was in when it came to the playoffs (currently fighting for the tenth spot with the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors) as well as the schedule for the next few weeks. With all this in mind, and the regular season ending May 16, the Bulls needed a win from their Midwest rival, which seemed almost solidified after an impressive win the week before, even without coveted No. 8.
However, the Bulls did just about the opposite, putting up season-low stats. Like the lowest scoring first quarter all season at 12 points and five turnovers in the first six minutes of the game. The Bulls seemed sluggish throughout the entire night, putting up subpar numbers against a team that, statistically speaking, they should play well against. Of course, without their lead scorer Zach LaVine, the team needed to rely on their new addition Nikola Vučević to put up some major numbers, but he scored only 9 points. The leading scorer for the Bulls was Lauri Markkanen at 16 points, followed by Thaddeus Young and Coby White at 14 points.
With a hope of a Bulls playoff berth and the return of their MVP, the team have to put this game behind them, and address the biggest faults in the team: costly turnovers, empty possessions, and overall defense. Head coach Billy Donovan needs to keep the team focused on these next critical games against some tough teams like the Miami Heat and New York Knicks. Every point and win matters moving forward.