Running off 11 straight points in the third quarter helped the Cleveland Cavaliers take control of their Monday night game against the Chicago Bulls, resulting in a 107-98 win before a capacity crowd of 19,049 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.
The two teams had traded six different leads during the first half of the third quarter before Kyrie Irving hit a turnaround jumper to give Cleveland a 66-65 advantage with 6:08 left in the quarter. Irving would tally nine of the 11 points during the two-minute run, capping the push with a three-pointer to make it 75-65. The Bulls would then get no closer than seven for the remainder of the game.
Irving led the Cavs with 28 points, while Anderson Varejao contributed 22 in the paint. LeBron James tossed in 18, while Kevin Love led all rebounders with 13 on the night. However, the power forward was only able to hit two of his 10 outside shots in his first game back after missing Friday’s loss to Dallas with a neck issue.
After the game, Irving addressed the fact that this contest marked the first time that the team’s Big Three of James, Love and himself had played together against an NBA team saying, “We were really comfortable out there.”
Irving added, “We wanted to come out and beat them on both ends of the court.”
Irving also talked about the budding rivalry versus Chicago’s Derrick Rose that’s expected to ramp up with both teams batting for division and conference supremacy.
“We’re the next generation of point guards,” Irving said. “I’m looking forward to facing him this season.”
Rose had led a first half comeback for the Bulls, scoring the team’s final nine points before the break in a span of just 49 seconds. After hitting two early second half baskets, Rose had scored 27 of Chicago’s first 56 points, but was held to just three over the remainder of the game.
The contest itself had been awash in pre-game hype about how the game could be a preview of the Eastern Conference finals, with both the Cavaliers and Bulls considered the top two teams. In reality, it was simply Cleveland’s sixth preseason clash and Chicago’s seventh.
During the opening quarter, the two teams traded the first pair of baskets before James connected on a three-pointer to make it 7-4 in favor of the Cavaliers. They would maintain that advantage until the final minute of the half, when the Bulls deadlocked the game at 49. James’s two free throws with 7.1 seconds to go before intermission sent Cleveland into the locker room with a 51-49 lead.
The victory improves the Cavaliers preseason mark to 5-1, while the Bulls fall to 4-3. The two teams will meet for real 11 days from now at the United Center in Chicago in a highly anticipated Halloween showdown. Cleveland has one more preseason matchup on tap, that coming on Wednesday night in Memphis against the Grizzlies, with tipoff coming just after 8 p.m. Eastern.