Sunday, May 22, 2022

Bulls Snap 4-Game Losing Streak Versus Cavaliers


A rare, ear-to-ear smile and hug with DeMar DeRozan took place from head coach Billy Donovan as the seconds counted down a relieving win for the Chicago Bulls.

Nikola Vucevic and others laughed with their old teammate, Lauri Markkanen, as the team defeated the gigantic and legit Cleveland Cavaliers with a strong offensive run in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Without Zach LaVine (knee soreness), Javonte Green (groin), Derrick Jones Jr. (bone bruise in right knee) and Lonzo Ball (bone contusion), who is going through difficulties in treatment for his injury, according to NBC Sports Rob Schaefer, the going was tough.

The Bulls are without many levels of their game, missing four key and unique players to their lineup.

Obviously, without LaVine, both sides of the floor are affected by his presence. The offensive end is left without a chunk of its scoring and someone to lean on in close games. LaVine’s defensive presence this season is noticeable and would be useful for the Bulls.

Without Green’s energy and aggression on both sides of the floor, the team’s fire is no longer fueled. Jones adds a certain athleticism and defensive effort that goes unparalleled in the frontcourt too.

And without Ball, one of the team’s best offensive assets behind the arc, the team loses his playmaking, creativity and flow. Taking an offense away from Ball is like taking an extra-large popcorn bag away from Benny the Bull.

The Caruso Effect

Nevertheless, fans did get to see one of their favorites return to the floor — Alex Caruso. He had not played a game since Dec. 20 before entering the game off the bench late in the first quarter.

Caruso was unable to produce much on offense, shooting 2-of-8 and scoring just nine points off the bench. But, his defensive presence was contagious for the squad.

Some notable outcomes of Caruso’s return to the lineup include: Jarrett Allen shooting 2-of-5 and scoring six points, Cavaliers committing 14 turnovers in exchange for 23 points for the Bulls, and a team total of seven steals and four blocks.

Caruso guarded everyone on the floor, most notably the predetermined rookie of the year, Evan Mobley. This in turn gave Caruso the team’s best plus/minus on the floor of +18.

The Bulls kept the Cavaliers to just 104 points to their 117. The Cavs were able to pour in 51.9 percent of their shots but took nine less than the Bulls. The Bulls stunted the Cavs into a 14-3 run to end the game and invariably win.

Big Offensive Nights

While Caruso put on his “Caru-show” for the United Center, DeRozan and Vucevic picked up the missing offensive slack.

DeRozan recorded his 10th 30-point game of the season, slashing a 30-point, two rebound and seven assist game, shooting 14-of-24 from the field.

He uncharacteristically shot 2-of-5 from the free-throw line and committed four turnovers and personal fouls each. But, he still got the job done. He made tough shots over the gargantuan Cavaliers, who each took turns trying to stop the MVP candidate.

Nikola Vucevic showed early signs of another sluggish shooting night but picked up the slack to give him 10 in the first half and ending with 21 points. He shot 11-of-21, adding 12 rebounds to his night.

Ayo Dosunmu, coming off his career-high 21-point night on 9-of-10 shooting, replaced his performance with an 18-point game (nine in the fourth quarter) on 7-of-8 shooting. Dosunmu added eight assists, two steals and just one turnover.

This trio stepped up before an intimidating night, staring down the barrel of a possible five-game losing streak with the Miami Heat on their heels in the conference standings.

Dosunmu continues to prove his worth to the starting lineup on both ends. A Dosunmu steal and assist to a Coby White jam late in the fourth was symbolic of his value.

The Cavs Are No Joke

The win over the Cavs was monumental for ending the Bulls’ gruesome losing streak against big dog teams.

Nationally-televised losses to the Nets and Warriors were tough pills to swallow. This was followed by a missed Vucevic game-winner and DeRozan game-tying field goal against the Celtics for another loss. Then, Ja Morant and Desmond Bane combined for a 50-point performance to seal a fourth-straight loss that twisted the knife deeper into the Bulls.

The Bulls are similar to that of last year’s Chicago White Sox — injury-ridden all season long with losses to top teams in the league.

In this instance, fans have to question — are the Bulls for real? Their record and accounted obstacles would make one believe so, but their blowout losses to bonafide playoff teams are nerve-racking.

Either way, a win against the Cavs is satisfying. Now, the fourth-best team in the loaded Eastern Conference, Cleveland’s proven they are here to stay in the conference standings. The Bulls showed their teeth against one of the biggest, baddest teams in the league and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The Bulls will have the chance to improve their national persona on Friday against the Bucks on the ESPN stage.

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