Kyrie Irving and LeBron James struggled, Kevin Love sat out with an eye injury, and Derrick Rose looked like the Derrick Rose of old. That's a recipe for a Bulls win, and win the Bulls did, 113-98.
It was also the second night of a road back to back, and one might forgive the Cavs for looking ahead to their plans over the All-Star break. The Cavs have 27 games left, and currently would finish 5th in the East. It's easy to say the Cavs have been playing better than that, and will catch one or two or three of the teams ahead of them, but the Raptors have a four game head start, and the Wizards face an easier schedule.
This game highlighted a few things that we already knew about the Cavs. First, there is no depth in the frontcourt. Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov, and Tristan Thompson is pretty good when the guys are healthy. But if one goes down, things get dicey quick. Brendan Haywood doesn't play serious minutes. Shawn Marion comes and go in the Cavs rotation. David Blatt played James Jones 30 minutes last night. With Mozgov in foul trouble (which again, is sort of inevitable for a guy who has never averaged 26 minutes a game in his career) the Cavs just didn't have anything up front. The Bulls shredded the Cavs for 13 offensive rebounds, and it felt like the Bulls capitalized on each one.
That's going to spell trouble when James and Irving struggle. James finished with 31 points on 26 shots, five rebounds, five assists, and eight turnovers. TNT analysts kept referring to James' repeated attempts to warm up his hands, and I'm not sure James had a good feel for the ball at any point in the night. Tony Snell is having a good run of games, and he had himself a great performance on LeBron as well. That he made a few dagger three pointers was but another bummer. James got beat on cuts by Mike Dunleavy Jr. a few times, but that happened to the entire team.
Irving was less efficient scoring, with 17 points on 18 shots, but he had seven assists to just one turnover. He didn't have much of an answer for Derrick Rose, though they didn't spend the entire game guarding each other. Rose had the statline of a star player, with 30 points on 24 shots, seven assists to two turnovers, and four rebounds. The Chicago crowd serenaded him with MVP chants at one point. It was good to see a great player who has fought through injuries succeed.
The takeway from this game: the math for a high playoff seed is a bit harder, and the Cavs are merely average when they miss a member of the frontcourt and don't get great performances from great players in James and Irving.
Fear the Sword will have all your All-Star coverage, so stick around.