The Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls played their starters minutes pretty close to what you'd expect in a regular season matchup. The Cavaliers won 107-98.
I spent a good portion of the third quarter being critical of Kyrie Irving. He was taking midrange jumpers, dribbling out large portions of the clock, and going one on one, even with LeBron James and Kevin Love on the floor.
But here's the thing about Irving: he is a supremely gifted offensive player. And after a stretch in the third quarter where Derrick Rose looked like his former MVP self, Irving decided it was his turn. Back to back midrange jumpers that left Aaron Brooks dazed and confused, followed by a dagger three in transition, and Kyrie Irving gave the Cavaliers a comfortable lead they wouldn't relinquish. It all crescendo-ed into a Kyrie Irving feed to a trailing LeBron off the backboard that would have detonated Columbus, but the Bulls fouled James before he could bring the arena crashing down around him.
Irving finished with 28 points on 19 shots. His two turnovers came in the first half, and he handed out seven assists. James had 18 points on 11 shots and often seemed to be conducting the offense even without the ball. Waiters wasn't great tonight but his shot selection was good and he hit a few spot up shots.
Irving and LeBron dictated most of the offense for the Cavaliers in this game, and they did it pretty well. The team didn't move things as well as you might hope at various times, but again, these guys are good enough individually that at times it will be okay. One thing I liked, even though they didn't have much success with it, was Kyrie-LeBron pick and roll setups. In time, with Kevin Love and Dion Waiters or Mike Miller or really anyone spotting up, that's really difficult to guard.
One thing I didn't like: The Cavaliers, and Irving in particular, need to get Kevin Love involved. He is too good to be a bit player, and he complements LeBron and Irving well enough that it makes sense for him to be involved anyway. Even so, Love wasn't hitting all of his shots, and it's nice that you can get an off night from a player like that and still have your way with the Bulls defense.
The Cavaliers also got really solid play from Anderson Varejao, who will surprise the league all year with his offensive skill. Tristan Thompson acquitted himself very well against Taj Gibson. Thompson was a little slow to get acclimated off the bench in the first half, but he was instrumental in the Cavs building a lead in the 3rd quarter with his defense.
This was a preseason game and you would have to be pleased with the way Derrick Rose played. He's trying to do something exceedingly rare after missing as much time as he has, and there have been bumps along the way. But he looked quick and smart and opened things up for a Bulls offense that desperately needs him to do just that. The NBA is better when Derrick Rose can control games, and I'm hoping he bounces back. Tonight was an indicator he might do just that.