Every year, there are games that just frustrate you throughout their entire duration. Sometimes there’s reasons for these, like coming off a road back-to-back with an overtime game. Other times a team you thought you were better than just destroys you out of the gate. If you’re lucky, your team will only suffer a few of these games a year. Other teams aren’t so fortunate. But no matter how many times it happens, or how good your team is, the frustrating demolition loss always stings. Tonight was one of those games for the Cavaliers (10-16), a 100-84 loss to the Chicago Bulls (10-16).
Right out of the gate, it looked like the Cavs might struggle. Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett and Dion Waiters were all sick, and Waiters and Bennett didn’t play. They were coming off a gritty overtime game against the Milwaukee Bucks, a 114-111 win the night before. However, the Bulls were having issues of their own, coming off back-to-back losses to the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder on national TV. Their offense had been a trainwreck, and they were playing without Luol Deng. Even fighting exhaustion, the Cavs looked like they could grab a W.
It took about four minutes to determine that that would not be the case. The Bulls stormed the floor off the opening tip and opened up an offensive flurry that the Cavaliers couldn’t keep up with. Carlos Boozer carried the Bulls early, abusing Tristan Thompson for 11 first quarter points. The Bulls offense flowed like we haven’t seen in weeks, led by D.J. Augustin preying on a sick Kyrie and facilitating, with Boozer getting shots to fall and Noah cleaning the glass. Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao shot well in the first in the post, and the Cavs were able to generate solid offense throughout the quarter, but still, a stagnant Bulls offense scored 33 points on the Cavs after 1.
The second quarter brought more frustration as the game completely got away from the Cavs. For one, Nazr Mohammed came into the game and scored 6 points in his first two minutes of game action. They would be his only 6 points all game, but that helped stretch the game to double-digits. The Bulls also continued to double-team Bynum throughout the first half, and Bynum continued to not be able to pass out of that, which killed the offensive rhythm they had in the first half. The Cavs also shied away from involving Kyrie in the offense, thanks to a slow start and Kyrie’s sickness gassing him. Even playing against Marquis Teague and D.J. Augustin, Kyrie only had 5 points in the first half. There were some bright spots, of course; Matthew Dellavedova and Jarrett Jack played well together in the backcourt, and the Cavs got a solid midrange game going throughout the first half. However, the offense fizzled with about 5 minutes left in the half, as the Cavs closed out the half scoring 2 points in the final 4:45, as the Bulls stretched it to a 60-43 halftime lead. The Bulls shot 61 percent through the first 21 minutes of the first half, outrebounded the Cavs 30-18, and D.J. Augustin had 12 first-half points with 6 assists. That’s about as bad as it gets for what seemed like a completely disinterested Cavs defense.
The second half didn’t offer anything more than more frustration. The Cavs actually came out on fire with a 9-2 run, led by Bynum and Jarrett Jack. Boozer continued to be a nuisance on offense for the Bulls, but the Cavs actually played pretty well to begin the quarter, cutting things to a six-point lead. Bynum played particularly well, shooting well against Joakim Noah and crashing the boards. He’d finish the game with 19 points and 7 rebounds in a solid performance. However, everything went to crap again when the Bulls just starting jacking up, and hitting, wide-open threes. D.J. Augustin and Tony Snell hit 9-14 from deep in this game, and most of that was part of this third-quarter barrage that stretched that six point deficit back to 16. The Cavs waved the white flag at the end of the third, putting in Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev and signaling the end of the Cavs’ efforts, as the team fell 100-84.
From beginning to end, this game just was a mess for the Cavs. They continued their atrocious three-point defense, particularly at the point, where Kyrie and Jack just had no plan for defending D.J. Augustin. Tristan Thompson looked horrible in isolation guarding Carlos Boozer. The Cavs had no flow on offense if they weren’t feeding Bynum, and they went a ghastly 4-18 from three. They got outrebounded, outhustled, and outworked.
The end of the game also showcased another frustration for Cavs fans, because Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev entered the game and actually played decently. Why aren’t these guys playing more? It’s understandable that Zeller’s been in and out of the lineup with injury, but right now, Zeller is head-and-shoulders a better player than Alonzo Gee is showing. Gee was terrible tonight with 3 rebounds and a steal in a sad, pathetic 17 minutes. Meanwhile, Zeller isn’t playing nearly at all and Earl Clark, who actually looks like a functional two-way player at times, played just six minutes. Something needs to change with the Cavs bench rotation. That’s inexcusable that someone who hasn’t had a good game ALL DAMN SEASON is still starting while Zeller rots on the bench.
The Cavs have to play the Celtics, Pistons, and Hawks this coming week. All three of those teams are Eastern Conference playoff contenders (take that with a grain of salt this season). I really hope that the Cavs can steal one or two of those games, which would be huge in their fight to get into the conversation. But with this effort tonight, I’m once again doubting whether they can even come close to getting a win.