Jan 15, 2024; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) defends a shot by Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) in the first quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Having played three games in four nights and four games in the last six nights, the Chicago Bulls came out flat against the Cleveland Cavaliers, losing 109-91. Here are my takeaways from the game.
— Coming out of the gate, the Cavs were on fire from three, 8-of-14 threes in the first quarter, en route to a 40-21 lead. The Bulls were playing from behind all night as a result.
With the floor spaced out as much as it was, Jarrett Allen was giving the Bulls trouble up the middle of the floor, finishing in short roll and lob situations as the Bulls low man defenders (Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan in these examples) were late to arrive.
Allen had 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting with 14 rebounds, five of which came on the offensive glass.
— The Bulls started to claw back in the second quarter, but did serious damage in the third using a non-traditional two-center lineup.
With 6:09 to play in the third, the Bulls were down 77-56. Billy Donovan inserted Andre Drummond to play alongside Nikola Vucevic, and by the end of the quarter, the Bulls were down only three.
21-3 run in 6:09.
By putting Drummond on Isaac Okoro and Georges Niang, the Bulls were able to eliminate the Cavs offensive rebounding and second chance points, while generating some offensive rebounds and second chance points of their own.
Still, the Cavs had 13 offensive rebounds to the Bulls six and won the second chance points battle 26-16.
— In addition to his rough shooting performance (18 points on 5-of-15 shooting), Coby White had a season-high seven turnovers. Two came in the form of a negative step on the sideline attempting to attack a closeout. Four were bad passes and one came after losing the handle on the ball.
In spite of his usage jumping from 17.8 percent last season to 23.1 percent this season, White’s turnover percentage has only gone up 0.5 percent.
White has been fantastic this season taking care of the basketball, so this was clearly an outlier. But the Bulls win games by winning the possession battle — they’re fourth in the league in turnover percentage. On a night where the opponent beat them at the three-point line, on offensive rebounds and shooting efficiency, they needed to be better in that category.
— To their credit, the Bulls have improved as a three-point shooting team this season. They’ve moved from 29 to 21 in three-point frequency, and 22nd to 9th in corner three-point frequency.
They’ve even managed to hold their accuracy at 36.2 percent this season, up from 36.1 percent last season.
But Monday night was not their night.
Where the Bulls went 9-of-32 from deep, the Cavs went 20-of-57. A 33-point difference was more than enough to put the Bulls away.
Donovan Mitchell led the way for the Cavs with 34 points on 11-of-21 shooting, 4-of-10 threes and 8-of-8 free throws.
— DeRozan was held to a season-low six points on 3-of-8 shooting. He had no free throw attempts for the first time since March 22, 2022. DeRozan is averaging 19.8 points per game over his last six games, and including his 39-point outburst against the Warriors, he’s only had three outings with more than 20 in 2024.
Clearly, DeRozan can still do DeRozan things. But the Bulls front office certainly needs to consider the early indicators of a gentle decline ahead of his free agency.
— Patrick Williams (ankle) was held out for the second game in-a-row. Ayo Dosunmu (shoulder) popped up on the injury report, and though he was able to play, he re-aggravated the injury in the fourth quarter.
— In a stroke of divine brilliance, the Bulls are now 14-9 in their last 23 games after starting the season 5-14. For those not counting, that’s the same record the 2022-23 Bulls accomplished after signing Patrick Beverley on the buyout market last season, and (part of) Arturas Karnisovas’ reasoning behind continuity 4.0. Life is funny that way.
— Up next: Bulls have a few much needed days off before they head to Toronto for a TNT matchup with the Raptors on Thursday.
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