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)