The Bulls led more or less wire to wire with the Cavs only pulling up to a tie game once after the opening tip off. However, so many things went right for Chicago and wrong for Cleveland for a game that the Cavs were still more or less into at the end.
Derrick Rose won't get two+ days of rest again
Derrick Rose has played much better with extra rest, and while the Bulls won't have any back to backs in this series, they also won't have any multiple days between games either.
At times it felt like old Derrick Rose. He was drilling mid range jumpers like crazy as the Cavs let him get to the true mid range shot far too often. Rose hit more jump shots in this game than perhaps all but a few this season.
He also knocked down three of six from down town and even finished with just one turnover which was a welcome change after that Bucks series. As a Bulls fan the problem is that Rose drew no FT attempts and was only so-so aggressive in terms of his basket attacking.
Derrick overall had a solid game, but he did so in a way that I'm not confident he'll be able to complete. He also finished with what is initially being ruled as a shoulder stinger and sat out the final couple plays of the game.
I hope, and expect, Rose has no real negative outcome from the injury. Despite his hot shooting, I think the Bulls will need to see him create/drive more in the series as a whole.
He scored 25 points but requiring 26 shots to get them is something the Cavs will likely be content to live with going forward, especially when he added just five assists.
Jimmy Butler gave us a complete game
Through three quarters Butler was struggling through a pedestrian offensive night. However, in the fourth he found his rhythm and hit big shots for Chicago repeatedly.
Butler largely sat when James sat and played when James played. This gave him fewer minutes than usual but kept him a little fresher given the defensive challenge he was faced with.
Butler harassed James into a 9/22 night for just 19 points. James had his moments, but Butler did a nice job of deciding when to just let him go at the rim and not add touch fouls on to shots LeBron was going to finish.
He largely forced him into jumpers that LeBron hit at a fairly pedestrian clip. LeBron was clearly hurt by the overall spacing on the floor which was considerably more limited without Love/Smith available.
In the end, Butler gave the Bulls 20 points on 16 shots with six assists and a turnover which was much better than LeBron's 19 points on 22 shots with nine assists and six turnovers.
The best news for the Bulls and worst for the Cavs is LeBron also looked considerably limited athletically relative to what he was able to do in the past. The Cavs hid him on defense virtually the entire game to conserve his energy for the end.
The strategy didn't work particularly well as Rose had no problems scoring on LeBron at the end anyway. Despite playing 32 minutes and change most of which defending someone that required almost no work to defend, LeBron didn't look all that special on offense or defense.
We'll see if this is the new LeBron or simply an outlier, but the Cavs need a hell of a lot more from James than they got tonight. That said, Bulls fans have beaten LeBron in game one enough times to lose in five to not get too excited by the early victory.
Mike Dunleavy/Pau Gasol owning the odds
Mike Dunleavy in the first and Pau Gasol in the third really pushed the envelope for Chicago. Dunleavy got just one shot up (a missed three) after the first period and split a couple free throws to finish with 14 after a perfect 5-5 for 13 in the first quarter.
Gasol knocking down the open mid range jumper was a thing of beauty. He had it on automatic when the Cavs left him alone, and Cleveland will need to make an adjustment next game.
Gasol's 21 points on 16 shots was solid, but the additional spacing he'll create next game will be even better.
Hinrich need to go
Kirk Hinrich had a good first minute in this game scoring six points crushing LeBron James off the dribble for an And1 followed by a corner three.
That was then all you could say that was good about Kirk's night. He went back to getting utterly destroyed by Kyrie Irving on defense, making stupid touch fouls to allow and one opportunities, and generally doing nothing useful whatsoever.
Kyrie Irving was fairly brilliant
He was probably the best player on the floor (with the runner up being Jimmy Butler). Irving threatened to single handedly keep the Cavs in the game and was the one guy the Bulls couldn't stop.
Even when they had help underneath, Irving finished with acrobatic lay up after acrobatic lay up. I'm not sure what options the Bulls really have to do much else on Irving other than having Rose try and work him over on offense to even things out.
Irving's a pretty special player, and their best bet might be to simply focus on making sure he's only a scorer and not a passer too.
Cavs really hurt by lack of space
It's easy to see where if the Cavs had J.R. Smith their small ball lineup would have had a chance. However, putting Mike Miller or James Jones in that lineup simply got them killed.
Iman Shumpert hit 4/10 from beyond the arc which is probably about as much as they can expect out of him.
The Bulls packed the paint which seemed to impact LeBron more than Irving, and the rest of the Cavs simply couldn't make them pay.
Like any game, plenty of odd trend
Both teams left plenty of things on the table in the end. Both teams got quality performances in areas that you wouldn't necessarily expect to happen again and were weak in areas you expect to be stronger.
In the end, the Bulls took game one though. Winning game one is huge in most cases even if the Bulls have taken a game one from Miami twice before and lost to LeBron in the end, I'm happy to have a chance to see what happens the third time.
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