The year ended the same way for the Chicago Bulls as it began: holding their breath, waiting for a shot to fall.
DeMar DeRozan rang in 2022 with a bit of magic, sinking a one-legged 3-pointer in Indianapolis to beat the buzzer for a win against the Pacers on New Year’s Eve. But DeRozan couldn’t rustle up the same heroics Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Bulls forced a Cavaliers jump-ball turnover with 5.8 seconds remaining as Alex Caruso and Nikola Vučević smothered a last-second shot attempt by Donovan Mitchell, placing the ball in the team’s most reliable hands to take the potential game-winner. The Cavaliers threw a double-team at DeRozan, who pulled up for his signature midrange jumper to take another crack at a New Year’s Eve haymaker.
But unlike last year’s crisp arc through the net, this year’s shot bounced slightly off the mark, rattling across the rim as the Bulls fell 103-102 at the United Center.
- Javonte Green carried the Bulls offense in the first half with 12 points, netting the only Bulls 3-pointer of the half and slamming down a thunderous one-handed dunk. Green threw himself into the teeth of the Cavaliers defense, earning the first five free throws of the night for the Bulls. He did not score in the second half.
- After consecutive games with a 40-point performance from DeRozan and Zach LaVine, respectively, the Bulls had a more well-rounded offense against the Cavaliers. Six players scored 11 points or more: DeRozan had 21, LaVine 15 and Ayo Dosunmu 19.
- The Bulls were completely outmatched in secondary opportunities, coughing up 25 second-chance points while scoring only two. Despite out-rebounding the Cavaliers 25-24 in the first half, the Bulls gave up 15 rebounds in the third quarter as they lost the battle of the boards on both ends of the court. Jarrett Allen led the Cavaliers with four offensive rebounds.
- The Cavaliers lead the league in defensive rating (108.6) but came into Chicago on a three-game losing streak after giving up 125 points or more in their last two losses. After a week of explosive offense, the Bulls managed only 102 points against the Cavaliers and gave up 16 points on 15 turnovers.
- After trailing by as many as 14 points, the Bulls marched back to force their 19th clutch finish — any game with a margin of five or fewer points in the final five minutes. The Bulls were on a strong streak in these situations, finishing 7-4 in clutch games after an 0-7 start to the season. But the final shot didn’t fall this game, dropping the Bulls to 7-12 in the category.
- Fresh off a season-high 43-point performance Friday against the Detroit Pistons, LaVine was quiet through his first 30 minutes. He scored only eight points in the opening half and didn’t net a single basket in the third quarter. LaVine finally broke his scoreless stretch with 6:38 remaining in the game, scoring seven straight points to pull the Bulls within three, but he didn’t deliver in the final five minutes.
Stat of the game
The Cavaliers won the game behind the 3-point arc — a familiar refrain for the Bulls, who take the fewest 3-pointers in the league. The Bulls were outscored 39-21 from behind the arc, while three Cavaliers made three or more 3-pointers.
The Bulls only made one 3-pointer in the first half while the Cavaliers went 9-for-23 from behind the arc. Dosunmu took advantage of a pair of open looks to go 2-for-2 in the third quarter, but the Bulls couldn’t ignite their long-range shooting.
Kevin Love led the Cavaliers with 5-for-11 shooting from behind the arc.
Goran Dragić was the only Bulls player ruled out against the Cavaliers, sitting out the team’s third game in four nights for rest. Derrick Jones Jr. was cleared to return after missing five games with a left ankle sprain but did not play.
The Cavaliers were missing guard Darius Garland (right thumb) and forward Evan Mobley (right ankle).
Where they stand
The Bulls fell to 16-20 and remain in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls will travel to Cleveland for a rematch against the Cavaliers on Monday.