Recap: Bulls 92, Cavs 79 (Or, there are no surprises here)

January 22nd, 2011 by John Krolik

Overview: The Bulls extended the Cavaliers’ losing streak to 16 games with a 92-79 win. Cavaliers not named Antawn Jamison shot 15-62 against the NBA’s top-rated defense. Ramon Sessions suffered an abdominal strain that limited him to 11 minutes of play.

More injuries, more losses, more of the expected bullets:

I don’t know what we expected to happen when the team with the worst offensive efficiency in the NBA played the team with the best defensive efficiency in the NBA, but this is probably what we should have expected. I’ll give Antawn Jamison credit, because he had a great game — he gets shots up from every spot on the floor, and on Saturday night he was making shots from all of them.

Unfortunately, none of the other Cavaliers could find room to breathe against Tom Thibodeau’s defense, even with Joakim Noah still out. The Bulls fly through screens when they aren’t there, collapse the paint and react back to the perimeter, and make every pass a risky proposition. And they started Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Kurt Thomas, Luol Deng, and Kurt Thomas. Two of those players had bad defensive reputations before this year, two are old guys who nobody thinks of as defensive wizards, and the last one is Luol Deng. That’s the starting lineup of the best defensive team in basketball. Would anybody be surprised if the Bulls were an average/below-average defensive squad, especially with Noah out?

If there’s one point that I’m going to continue to drive home this season, it’s that trying to make a team with this little talent a run-and-gun squad was a fundamentally flawed plan. The team’s rebuilding effort needs to start with a real defensive system and players that will work in it. Everything else is secondary. If the Bulls had won this game with Rose and Boozer combining for 60 points on 45 true attempts, that would be one thing. But the Bulls won this game with Rose and Boozer combining for 44 points on 45 true attempts, and a lot of defense.

I loved the effort JJ showed on the boards — usually his effort goes away when his shots aren’t falling, but he went after it tonight. That’s all I have for now. The takeaway: the Cavaliers need to remake themselves in the image of the Bulls. Don’t look at Rose, don’t look at Noah, look at Thibodeau. He’s the key.