The Bulls pulled themselves to .500 on the season (18-18) with their 106-94 victory over the Cavaliers last night. The Cavaliers, who still hold the top position in the East with a record of 26-8, were sorely undermanned due to a plethora of injuries and ailments.
Kyrie Irving sat as he continues to battle a bad hamstring. Kevin Love was out because he is still fighting off food poisoning. LeBron James was able to play despite battling the flu and Channing Frye played despite feeling ill.
So, it looked like the Bulls might have a fairly easy run against a depleted squad whose starting 5 included 3rd year player DeAndre Liggins and sophomore Jordan McCrae.
In true Bulls fashion, they started off slow.
They did however, battle back to see a lead as big as 17. In a game that saw the Bulls have runs of 13-0 and 27-12, Bulls fans were treated to something seldom seen; production off of the bench.
Michael Carter-Williams contributed 13 points and peskiness on defense that was needed. The one sight that was a gleefully welcomed one were the contributions of Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. The pairing combined to go 12 for 21 with 17 and 16 points respectfully.
In true Cavs fashion, they battled back---mostly with LeBron on the bench. The Cavs would pull within one (89-88) behind two buckets from James as part of his 31 point 8 rebound and 7 assist performance.
They wouldn’t get any closer.
The reason behind it? Jimmy Butler would score 14 of his 20 points in the 4th quarter. While he was assisted in his efforts to close out the game by two clutch baskets from Taj Gibson, it was apparent that the outing from Butler was needed.
Butler was coming off of his 52-point explosion in the team’s win against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, since he struggled with only three points in the first half last night, for him to essentially save the day against the Cavs has to be a morale booster for the team overall.
This game could be anomaly. This game could also be a launching pad for them to trend upward in the standings. The Bulls had 6 players in double figures and also got the contributions from the bench. Both things they need. The question has never been if they were capable of doing it, but if they could do it on a consistent basis.
Despite the clouds of mediocre play and the steadily growing Rajon Rondo DNP drama, the Bulls play 8 of their next 13 games at home, so if they keep this up they could find themselves right back in the thick of things.