Bulls show Cavaliers what a contender looks like yet again

It’s tough to imagine the pure carnage that would be the fallout of a Cavaliers-Bulls contest with a healthy Derrick Rose leading the charge. With the former MVP still rehabilitating from ACL surgery, his teammates continue to treat the Cavs as five rag dolls with which they have the fortune of toying for 48 minutes per contest.

Like a game of cat-and-mouse where the feline allows the prey to have a glimmer of hope, the Bulls let the Cavaliers storm out to a 30-20 lead in the first quarter, only to dismantle them every step of the way before the final buzzer rang loud and the Rose-less ones had a final margin of 26 and a season-best 118 points. The Cavaliers were punished every step of the way over the last three quarters, the Bulls shooting an embarrassing 85 percent from the floor in the fourth quarter alone.

The Bulls’ previous season-high in terms of a point total was 115, set against — naturally — the Cavaliers earlier this season. When the two teams locked horns in Cleveland roughly one month ago, it was Marco Belinelli who looked like the All-Star. On Monday night, it was any member of the Chicago frontcourt who deserved MVP chants each time they stepped to the foul line. Following the contest, Cavs guard Kyrie Irving — who is in All-Star contention yet somehow managed to take only two shots in the second half — stated that the Bulls play at a playoff level every single night; the game was well in hand for the Wine and Gold until the Bulls “started to execute.”

“Any team can beat any team — we know that,” said Irving. “But tonight, they were just really aggressive with us.”

This aggression led to both Carlos Boozer (24 points and 11 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (11 points, 11 rebounds, four blocked shots) registering double-doubles. Small forward Luol Deng chipped in 19 points, five boards and seven assists from the wing. Reserve small forward Taj Gibson piled on 18 points and seven rebounds of his own, hitting eight of his nine field goal attempts. Sixty percent of the Bulls’ shot attempts came in the paint, leading to 54 of their 118 points.

They just have our number,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said following the bloodbath.

Meanwhile, Anderson Varejao continues to rehabilitate his bruised knee with hopes of playing this week; he’s also the subject of trade rumors which could leave the Cavaliers with the same frontcourt that has now been abused by the best and the worst — sorry Sacramento. Tristan Thompson has poured in on in Varejao’s absence, improving in nearly every aspect of the game; Tyler Zeller has done his best as a fill-in starter but continues to have rookie struggles. It is a contest like Monday night’s that shows just how far away, despite having several young, key players, this Cavaliers team is from consistently competing with the best that the Eastern Conference has to offer.

“We just didn’t pick it up like them,” said Scott. “Our mindset couldn’t change to the capacity of theirs. Their’s is a championship team mentality. We just couldn’t match up.”

Over the last six games between the Bulls and the Cavaliers, the team from Chicago has won by an average of 27 points. The most unfortunate part of this entire situation: Rose has promised to return to the floor in even better shape than he was prior to his injury stating that he has never, in his playing career, had this type of rehab-rooted strength in his legs and core.

The road that exists ahead is a long one, folks.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

  • mgbode

    “They just have our number,” Cavs coach Byron Scott

    So, the Bulls are just like every team outside of LA or DC this season then. Perhaps it is time to change that number?

    Somehow, NO/Sac/Charlotte are all ranked below us on defensive efficiency:

    Milwaukee, Indiana, and DC are the only teams below us on offensive efficiency:

    If you add the ranking #’s up, then only Charlotte is worse than us overall.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Newsflash: Bulls are pretty good even without Rose, the Cavaliers are not even with Irving.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Coach killer on da loose!

  • Harv 21

    I want Byron to be the guy; the last thing a young team needs is an abrupt change of direction. But I am starting to wonder what he’s getting them to do well, and whether the development of Kyrie and Tristan would be about the same to date if a known mediocre like Randy Wittman was coach.

    They don’t run well, they don’t defend well, they don’t consistently put out effort/intensity. I understand they’re young, but we well remember the rooks Price, Harper and Daugherty under Lenny Wilkins. Despite plenty of “no … no!” moments and Lenny rueful head shakes there was a liberal and increasing sprinkle of “wow – see how they ran that?” Kyrie is clearly more talented than Price, but Waiters and Zeller might be rough equivalents to Harper and Daugherty. And Gee an inferior version of Johnny Newman, Andy a superior version of old Phil Hubbard and a year later the rook Hot Rod something like Tristan.

    Happy to wait some more, but watching for real signs that the kids are buying what Byron’s teaching. Not sure if you go all the way through 4 years of Byron with this stuff.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Wasn’t Scott brought in as a last ditch effort to bring LeBron back anyways? I don’t think it was to rebuild with a young roster. I like Byron, but I feel I can say that and still question whether or not he’s the right coach for this rebuild project.

  • @TheDeePagel

    I would see nothing wrong with seeking a new coach in the offseason. The job opening with the current roster, and future loads of first round draft picks would be very attractive to a hungry coach with player development credentials.

  • SDA

    somehow you seem to say what I was thinking… ditto by me

  • Harv 21

    Yeah, I think Gilbert wanted coaching credibility for LeBron. But Byron also had the rep of a developer of young’uns with NO, and the second year “Byron Bounce” with both NO and the Nets, too. He looks and acts and quotes like a successful coach but wonder why these players aren’t reacting or respecting. Surely Gilbert is monitoring this closely. Self-made billionaires aren’t generally known for undue patience.

  • SDA

    That is the one thing I love about Gilbert. I don’t worry about missteps when it comes to decision making. I get the feeling he learns from mistakes and that once he makes a decision he sticks with it until he’s sure it was a mistake.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Could be the one thing that is clear however is that Grant has to do something with this roster either during the current season or in the offseason and not just by making another top 5 draft pick. In other words he needs to make a trade that either brings in a legitimate All-Star or at the least multiple young budding potential All-Stars. The Cavaliers have more then enough cap room and an owner who will pay. No excuses.

  • SDA

    I totally agree. But isn’t that the real trick here? Timing is everything. To early and we are cap strapped for years. To late and we miss our shot. I’m glad its not my decision and I get to sit back and complain if they are wrong, and say “I called it” if they are right.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Very true it’s not an enviable position but that’s what GMs and rest get paid to do.

  • so much yes in this comment. And then you kinda killed the mood saying Zeller is a rough equivalent to Brad Daugherty. But I don’t want this egregious player comp fail to detract from the otherwise stellar insight. Nice job!

  • Harv 21

    rough comparison, I said. Don’t think Waiters is precisely pre-knee injury Ronnie Harper, or that Tristan’s game mirrors Hot Rod’s. Here’s what I meant: Zeller is the future foundation at center like Daugherty. Both are inside/outside skilled, fundamentally sound centers. Brad was way heavier, better inside and crazy smart, but with all his skills had to be coaxed to play intensely enough to dominate. I’m betting Zeller will be getting more out of his ability, picking up tricks, filling out some and will be in the league a lot longer.

  • humboldt

    “we well remember the rooks Price, Harper and Daugherty under Lenny Wilkins”

    Unfortunately, not all of us were capable of forming memories in that decade. But that’s why we value the wisdom of our local elders 😉

  • Harv 21

    Thx. And … get off my lawn!