For the second time this season, the Chicago Bulls beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, as their win, this time in the Quickens Loans Arena to the chorus of some boos by the home fans, exposes some developing issues for the Eastern conference leaders, that the firing of David Blatt, possibly at the orchestration of LeBron James and the new head coach, Tyronn Lue, isn’t going to make disappear.
The Bulls won 96-83 in an excellent defensive performance, although the Cavaliers missing a lot of open shots had something to do with game getting away from them rather quickly. They made just 37.2% of their shots. Lue said after the game that he thinks the players are out of shape in comparison to the quicker type of basketball he wants to play in. The problems were especially evident when Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson were on the floor, but overall, the Bulls, at least in the regular season, keep finding ways of making things difficult for Cleveland, even when James is one assist shy of a triple double, finishing with a 26-13-9 stat line.
It’s impossible to read and guess what the Bulls are going to do next. This is a team that can beat anyone in the league (unless they’re the Golden State Warriors probably) one night and lose to a terrible team 24 hours later. Their inconsistency stems from an up and down defensive effort and meshing, while their backcourt relying on Derrick Rose, who shot just 5-of-21 from the field yet still didn’t damage the team on the other end, comes with painful consequences at times. Pau Gasol with 25 points and Jimmy Butler scoring 20 made up for Rose’s misses. Nikola Mirotic having a good shooting night and finishing with 17 points is always a good sign for Bulls basketball.
The Cavaliers? Maybe the shake ups of the weekend got to them. Even if what David Griffin says is true, and Blatt pretty much lost the locker room, it might seem that not everyone is on board with the new things Lue is trying to do. Lue wasn’t ashamed of calling out the entire team and throwing them under the bus for being out of shape, and how it’ll take a few weeks to fall in line with his offensive system. Blatt had an idea when he got there but it either didn’t work or James forced him into something he prefers. Either way, Lue is allegedly James’ guy. Is LeBron willing to go along with the plan of playing quicker basketball that’s supposed to give them a better shot of confronting the Golden State Warriors?
Back to this specific game. Kyrie Irving scoring just 11 points is another example of the dependance on him doing well early on, especially against the Bulls, who know how to shut everyone around James down. Should Cleveland be worried in general? Probably not. This is still the same group of guys that played their way to 30-11 under Blatt, and if he was such a bad coach, it won’t matter that Lue is now on the sidelines. As for the Bulls and their threat: It seems every season Chicago pose a regular season problem for James, either playing in Miami or Cleveland. The playoffs are a different beast, and the Bulls might not last long enough to meet them there again.