Playing the second contest of a brief, three-game road trip, the Chicago Bulls routed the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-91 on Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena. The Bulls improved to 30-8 this season, good for the most wins, and best road mark (16-6), in the NBA.
The Bulls placed five players in double figures against the Cavs (13-21). Luol Deng, who is coming off a month in which he shot a paltry 39.8 percent from the field, dropped a game-high 24 points, six rebounds and four assists while shooting 9-for-14 in 33 minutes of action, his best outing since Jan. 16. Derrick Rose put up a seemingly effortless 19 points to go along with nine assists in just 28 minutes. Carlos Boozer notched a double-double of 13 points and 11 points against his former club. Ronnie Brewer also scored 13.
Rip Hamilton poured in 10 points, his first double-digit scoring game since Jan. 29. He had played around 16 minutes in the past two games since returning from a 13-game absence. However, the veteran shooting guard received 20 minutes of play against the Cavs and moved around very well. Playing the entire first quarter and the first eight minutes, one second of the third, Hamilton made 5-of-8 shots, dished out three assists and had his usual impact for the Bulls -- spacing the floor and finding teammates in areas where they can score. Coach Tom Thibodeau has made it clear that the Bulls will bring the 34-year-old along slowly. And the organization will gladly take the progress he's making.
The Bulls hung 30 points on the Kyrie Irving- (flu) and Anderson Varejao-less Cavs in the first quarter, although the home team had 28, 18 of which in the paint. Deng scored 15 points on three three-pointers in the opening frame. The Bulls' "Bench Mob" again provided a lift and extended the lead to 45-38 by the time Rose checked back into the contest with four minutes, 18 seconds left in the second. Then, the reigning league MVP led an 8-0 run that included two long-range shots by Kyle Korver sandwiched between Rose's floater. Although the Cavs were able to finish the first half on a 7-3 run, the visitors took a 56-44 lead at intermission, thanks to a 17-5 second-quarter run.
In similar fashion to last month's tilt in Cleveland, the Bulls led by double digits at halftime but were determined to pour it on in the second half. They followed through, scoring 38 points in the third quarter. The Cavs have been a solid defensive squad at home this season, but they had no answer for Thibodeau's bunch. With Irving out, Byron Scott's team wasn't able to keep pace on the offensive end either. Antwawn Jamison (22 points) and Ramon Sessions (16) were the lone Cavs in double figures.
This season, unlike previous few, the Bulls have made a concerted effort to keep their foot on the gas pedal once they get a big lead. Not only do they expect to maintain a 20-point lead, but also extend it and never allow the opponent to get any confidence. Rose has spoken at length this season about how important it is for his team to maintain their lead and edge so that they don't allow a team to make a major comeback.
The Bulls continue to play like a well-oiled machine and are rolling right along in this compressed 66-game schedule. They dominated the Cavs all across the board, outrebounding Cleveland 41-33 and dishing out 31 assists. The Bulls are 18-0 on the campaign when they have 23 or more assists in a game, according to Bulls radio statistician Jeff Mangurten -- which is certainly not bad for a squad that continues to fly under the radar compared to their Eastern Conference rivals, the Miami Heat.
Next up, the Bulls go for their sixth straight win in a nationally televised game against the Philadelphia 76ers (22-15) on Sunday night at Wells Fargo Center. Rose and his teammates are never ones to forget things and will certainly remember the 98-82 drubbing they suffered at the hands of the Sixers a month ago in that same arena.