Coming off of a 128-121 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, the Bulls were back on the court Saturday night in Cleveland to face the Cavaliers. Lebron James was a late scratch from the game after coming down with strep throat. The Cavs are 0-3 this season when Lebron doesn’t play, so the Bulls looked to capitalize in the absence of king James and pull out their fourth straight victory.
The two teams were neck in neck throughout the first half, finishing the half with the Cavs leading the Bulls 55-56. But, behind Butler and Wade, the Bulls exploded in the third quarter outscoring the Cavs 34-20 in the period. The Bulls would ride this lead for the rest of the game, easing to a 117-99 victory. The Bulls are now 3-0 against the Cavaliers this season.
Dwyane Wade came out hot in the first half, facilitating most of the Bulls offense. He looked great, driving to the paint and finishing at the rim with some spectacular lay-ups. Regardless if Lebron is playing, it seems D-Wade elevates his game when facing the Cavs who are 40-17 on the season and currently sit first atop the Eastern Conference standings. Wade was dominant throughout the game finishing one rebound shy of a triple double double. Jimmy Butler also had an exceptional game, though he started off cold on the offensive end in the first half. Jimmy matched up with Kyrie Irving for a large portion of the game and played tough, physical defense against the all-star point guard. Butler finished the game with a triple-double of 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, his third triple double of his career.
The real story of this game was the Bulls tremendous outside shooting. The Bulls shot 50% from three in this game and made a season high 15 three point field goals. Jimmy Butler was 4-6 from three, but Nikola Mirotić, Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine, and newcomer Cameron Payne were also hot from downtown. They say you either live or die by the three in the NBA, but last night the Bulls were living comfortably.
Though it’s been only two games since the all-star break concluded, it seems Denzel Valentine has gained a lot more confidence on the floor. After a small stint with the D-League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls, the rookie from Michigan State has played well with the extended minutes he has gotten. It’s easy to see his confidence is going up and he feels more comfortable with the pace of NBA basketball. Denzel, who was picked #14 overall by the Bulls in last summer’s draft, started off his NBA career slowly, but has a lot to offer to the Bulls. Denzel is an all-around player, he can pass, shoot, and defend multiple positions. With consistent playing time, look for Valentine to continue making an impact on the floor for this Bulls team.
Newly acquired Cameron Payne and Joffrey Lauvergne both saw action in last night’s game. Payne played 12 minutes and was 2-3 from beyond the arc and finished with 6 points. Lauvergne only saw 2 minutes on the floor and grabbed 1 rebound. Payne looked good while on the floor. It’ll take the new players time to get acclimated to the team, but Payne definitely looks like he can add more offense to the Bulls. He displayed a sweet stroke and played tough defense. Maybe the Bulls didn’t lose as much as fans thought after the trade?
The Bulls are now 30-29 and currently tied with the Indiana Pacers for the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. Chicago looks to win their fifth game in a row on Tuesday night when the Denver Nuggets come to town. It’s always great to start off hot after all-star break and hopefully the Bulls can ride this momentum and string some good games together.