The Bulls (24-34) began the night tied with Washington for the Eastern Conference's tenth seed, half a game ahead of Toronto. They know every victory is crucial at this point in the season as they try to hold on to their playoff aspirations.
In what was an important game for both morale and playoff seeding, the Bulls went on the road to beat the Boston Celtics 102-96 on Monday behind Nikola Vucevic's 29 points and nine rebounds, snapping Boston’s six-game winning streak. The Bulls prevailed against the Celtics thanks to a solid defensive effort in which they held their opponent to under 100 points for the second consecutive contest. They secured the victory despite All-Star Zach LaVine missing his third game due to NBA health and safety protocols.
The Cavaliers (21-37) came into tonight allowing 110.7 points per game over their past ten contests and it appeared as if the conditions were ripe for a Bulls' offensive explosion. Unfortunately, that was not the case as the visitors were completely manhandled for most of the contest. Cleveland's backcourt duo of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton outscored Chicago's guards 55-18 and the Cavaliers finished with a 56-48 advantage in the paint. Turnovers plagued the Bulls once again, as they coughed it up 19 times, leading to 25 points for Cleveland.
After tonight, the Bulls have now lost two of three matchups against the Cavaliers this season and, with Toronto's victory over Brooklyn, find themselves in 11th place.
Someone Change the Channel
As expected, the Bulls started the game sluggish because that's just what they do. Cleveland came out with a surplus of physicality and defensive energy which the Bulls failed miserably to match. On defense, their guards were unable to fight over screens and stop Cleveland's pick-and-roll which produced six early points, including two easy dunks for Jarrett Allen. In the first quarter, they allowed Cleveland to shoot 55.6% from downtown and turned the ball over seven times as the home team went on a 19-0 run, resulting in a 22-point lead.
At one juncture, the Bulls went nearly five minutes without scoring, finishing with 12 points, their lowest output this season. This also snapped a streak of 37 straight games with at least 20 points in the first quarter. The Bulls turned it over 12 times, shot 0-9 from long range, and Cleveland was able to hold Vucevic to 3-8 shooting from the field as they faced a 24-point deficit going into the second frame.
White, who was so abysmal to start the game that he was subbed out within a few minutes, bounced back nicely in the second quarter by scoring nine points. With five minutes to go before halftime, the Bulls finally realized they were in Cleveland to play a basketball game as they went on an 11-6 run, cutting the Cavaliers' lead from 25 down to a slightly more manageable 17.
Seriously, Someone Change the Channel
Instead of building off the momentum they created at the end of the first half, the Bulls reverted back to how they started the game as Cleveland scored at will in the third quarter. By the end of the frame, the Cavaliers enjoyed a 27-point lead. With five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the visitors made a run to cut the deficit to 15 but that was as close as they would get, losing by a final score of 121-105.
What's On Tap Next?
The Bulls (24-34) return home tomorrow night and welcome the Charlotte Hornets (28-29) to the United Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 PM CT on NBC Sports Chicago and WBBM 780 AM. As always, you can check out the latest Bulls content, articles, podcasts, and more at Bulls On Tap.