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Cavs Make Strong Push But Can't Get Past Bulls, Lose 16th Straight

Given that we're in the dead middle of winter and most cities in Ohio are seeing their high temperatures peak in the teens, I thought this metaphor regarding the Cavaliers losing streak would be well-suited: each of the team's 16 consecutive losses is like a snowflake—no two have been exactly the same.

That has definitely been the case in the last three losses. On Wednesday against the Suns, they were torched late in the game by clutch shots from 38-year-old Grant Hill. On Friday against the Bucks, they were beaten up inside by Andrew Bogut and gave up over 50% shooting and 100 points to one of the worst offensive teams in the league.

And last night, despite cutting a 20-point deficit to 2 with about 4 minutes to play, they ultimately couldn't overcome a dismal 32.1% shooting night and dropped their 20th straight road game 92-79 at the hands of the Chicago Bulls.

MVP-candidate Derrick Rose led Chicago with 24 points, 8 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks, converting a pivotal and-1 opportunity with 4:20 to go in the 4th quarter after Cleveland had cut the Bulls lead to 2. Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng each added 20-point double-doubles as well—Deng had 12 rebounds and 4 three-pointers while Boozer chipped in with 10 boards.

Antawn Jamison once again paced Cleveland with 31 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 three-pointers. J.J. set a career-high with 20 rebounds, including 11 offensive, while scoring 13 points.

The Cavs got off to another slow start, scoring just 2 points in the game's first 6-plus minutes and falling behind by 9 early. They rallied to cut the lead to 2 but Luol Deng hit a three-pointer as time expired in the first quarter, keying a 17-2 run that put Chicago up by 17 halfway through the second.

Boozer and Rose put on a nice two-man show to open the second half, scoring or assisting on the Bulls first 15 points while stretching the lead to 20. It looked as if the game had been decided—the Cavs were shooting a dismal 12-of-48 from the field and gave no indication they could erase such a large deficit.

But they showed signs of scrappiness, clawing their way back to within 10 to close the third and scoring the first 6 points of the fourth to cut the lead to 4. They had 5 shot opportunities to get closer but couldn't take advantage, only getting as close as 2 on a driving runner from Jamison with 4:37 to play.

That's when Rose took over.

A brilliant one-on-one move at the top of the key led to a lay-up and a foul, extending the lead to 5. On the next possession he found Kyle Korver for a crucial three-pointer. He then set up Boozer for another and-1 lay-up and hit another jump shot followed by one of his patented lay-ins and before you knew it, the Bulls led by 13 with 2 minutes left with Rose scoring or assisting on all of Chicago's final 15 points.

And now, some thoughts after losing No. 16 in a row and wondering if the streak will ever end...

  • After Friday's loss I talked about how the Cavs have such a small margin of error and how even 3-4 possessions in a row of unfocused, undisciplined basketball can almost be too much for them overcome. We saw it against Milwaukee when they were hanging around, then gave up 12 points in less than 2 minutes and suddenly trailed by double-digits at the half. The same thing happened last night—after closing within 2 in the fourth quarter they gave up 13 points in 2:20 and that was the ball game. They also gave up a 10-0 run in the final seconds of the first/early minutes of the second and a 15-5 run in a 3-minute stretch at the beginning of the third. Combine those three spurts and they were outscored 38-7 in a 7:59 stretch. There's no way the Cavs win a game against anyone (let alone an elite team like Chicago) giving up that many points in such a short burst.


  • The Cavs historically bad three-point defense actually was much improved in their previous two games. Milwaukee & Phoenix combined to shoot just 10-of-35 (28.6%) from beyond the arc, nearly 15 percentage points than opponent's season average. But Chicago, despite hitting just 36 percent of their three-point attempts for the season and being in the bottom third of the league in makes and attempts, connected on 9-of-19 (47.4%) attempts. Korver connected on 3 of 6 from deep but the real damage came from Deng, who hit a season-high 4 three-pointers. Chicago got assists on all 9 of their makes and got 7 of those from Cleveland missed shots and offensive rebounds.


  • J.J. Hickson's 20 rebounds were impressive, especially the 11 offensive, but he missed several shots at the rim—thus contributing to his 5-of-19 shooting performance. Hickson missed 7 shots that were either tip-ins or lay-ups and together the Cavs missed about 18 point-black shots in the paint or within 5-6 feet. That's far too many for a team that needs to take advantage of all opportunities they can to win.


  • I've gotten a chance to watch Derrick Rose play several times this season and his candidacy for MVP is more than justified. Chicago has played with their dynamic frontcourt duo of Boozer and Joakim Noah in just 9 of 44 games this season, but they've still won 30 games, have a 12-game lead in the division, and are just one game behind Miami for the second-best record in the East. Rose has been phenomenal but the Cavs actually did a decent job defending him last night (whether it was complacency or defensive efficiency is another issue). But for a 3-minute stretch to open the third quarter and the final 4 minutes of the game, he was as impressive as can be. He scored or assisted on Chicago's first and last 15 points of the second half, engineering a 30-9 run with a dazzling display of ball-handling and finishing at the rim to seal the win.


  • A day after using 11 players and getting almost everyone (aside from Leon Powe and Mo Williams) back from injury, the Cavs were once again short-handed last night. Anthony Parker didn't make the trip to Chicago to get more treatment for his back after playing 14 minutes on Friday. Ramon Sessions suffered an abdominal strain and left in the second quarter as well, leaving Byron Scott with basically a six-man rotation that featured Manny Harris and Joey Graham playing extended minutes.


  • The losing streak stands at 16 and the Cavaliers will play the lowly Nets tomorrow. If the Cavs are to snap this streak and not threaten the franchise record of 19 straight losses and the NBA record of 23, this is the game to win. They defeated the Nets 93-91 in New Jersey in early November (feels like it was years ago) behind strong bench performances from Gibson and Jamison. If they can't win Monday, the next four games are against Boston, Denver, Orlando and Miami—4 playoff teams with a combined record of 117-56.


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