Love was in the air tonight.
Kevin Love made the most of his start. He came out of the gates firing from distance as he canned 4 of his 7 three-point attempts as he put up 14 first half points. This opened up the floor for the entire team as they combined to go 9-23 (39.1%) from beyond the arc in the first half.
Love, and the offense in general, cooled off in the second half as he ended the night with 20 points, but he still found a way to make a positive impact. He contributed a block, steal and drew on offensive foul in the fourth allowing the Cavs to come away with the one-point victory.
The opponent three-point shooting finally regressed.
The three-ball hasn’t been kind to the Cavs during their recent three-game skid. Opponents hit 57.1% of their 32.7 threes per game during the recent slide. That percentage regressed as the Cavs held the Bulls to only 21 attempts from beyond the arc as they finished shooting 33.3% from deep.
The NBA is a make or miss league. The Cavs found themselves on the right side of this equation this time.
Second-chance points made the difference.
The Cavs won on the margins tonight. This showed up most on the offensive glass. Cleveland was able to punish Chicago’s undersized front court by grabbing 15 offensive boards leading to a lopsided 25-2 advantage in second-chance points.
Jarrett Allen had a tough night offensively as he only contributed 6 points, but the 4 offensive rebounds he grabbed and the havoc he caused on the glass allowed Cleveland’s sometimes stagnant offense stay in it with second chance opportunities.
The Cavs overcame an off-night from Donovan Mitchell.
The formula seemed simple coming into this game. Play solid defense and hope that Mitchell can bail out the offense. The former came true, but the latter didn’t
Mitchell concluded the night with just 15 points of 5-16 shooting which included going 0-6 from beyond the arc. He also finished with 4 assists to 7 turnovers which ties the most giveaways he’s had this season.
He wasn’t confident in his shot which nearly cost the team down the stretch. He added just 1 point in the fourth quarter and attempted just 2 shots from the field.
Cleveland didn’t score in the final 2 minutes as Chicago rallied back from a 103-96 deficit to make it a one-point game. Mitchell didn’t take a shot in the final two minutes and instead passed out of multiple looks leading to an Allen turnover, a bad pass turnover and a late dish to Caris LeVert which wound up in a shot clock violation.
Not pleased with how he's played over the last several games, Donovan Mitchell is determined to make adjustments and get better, and he applauds his @cavs teammates for picking him up in the meantime.#LetEmKnow | @SerenaWinters pic.twitter.com/TBPopRkIsH— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) January 1, 2023
This was an uncharacteristic outing from Mitchell. The tentativeness down the stretch isn’t something we’ve seen at all this season. The Cavs are fortunate to get a win considering his performance and the injuries they were dealing with.
Isaac Okoro continues his good play.
Okoro was a disruptor in Chicago. He repeatedly found ways to make things happen when he was out there resulting in a steal, a block and 3 huge offensive rebounds. He was also able to get to the line for 6 free-throw attempts en route to an 11-point second half.
Okoro’s impact doesn’t often show up in the box score, which is something that will need to change if he’s going to become the best version of himself. We saw a glimpse of what the ideal version looks like as he was able to make a positive impact in a variety of ways that showed up in the stat sheet.
A weird bench lineup turned the momentum of this game.
The Cavs were down four rotation players this game which forced J.B. Bickerstaff to run out some less than ideal lineups. One of those was the five-man unit of Raul Neto, LeVert, Cedi Osman, Lamar Stevens and Robin Lopez at the beginning of the second quarter.
The Cavs went into the second with a two point deficit, but quickly erased thanks to this lineup. This group went on a 10-0 run over the course of two minutes which allowed the Cavs to take a double-digit lead. This was highlighted by the first Cavalier three-pointer for Lopez.
You need production from unexpected sources if you’re going to win on the road down as many rotation players as the Cavs were. Getting this two minute stretch from this awkward lineup turned the momentum of the game.
Overall, the Cavs got good production from their second unit. Osman finished in double figures while leading the team again in plus/minus, Lopez contributed 9 points and 4 board and Neto contributed 3 assists and 5 points.
Caris LeVert looks more comfortable without Darius Garland.
LeVert has struggled at times to find his place with the starting backcourt of Garland and Donovan. While the three-man unit has performed better of late, LeVert still tends to get relegated to a role he isn’t as comfortable in.
That wasn’t the case today as he was thrust into the starting lineup in Garland’s absence. He was assertive on the offensive side of the ball all evening as he produced a team-high 23 points on 10-19 shooting.
LeVert was able to bail out the Cavs’ stagnant offense in the fourth. He contributed 7 points in the final frame including the team’s last field goal on the evening.
LeVert was also fantastic on the defensive end. He made life difficult for DeMar DeRozan and was able to stay glued to him on what would’ve been a game winning field goal attempt.
LeVert is at his best when he’s playing aggressive like he did tonight. The Cavs will hope they can find that aggressiveness when the team is at full strength.
Up next: The Cavs will take on the Bulls again at home on Monday, January 2nd. Tip-off is at 7 EST.