With a struggling offense, the Cleveland Cavaliers may not prove to be much of a challenge Saturday night as Chicago closes its six-game road trip.
The Bulls (7-7) ended a four-game skid with Friday's 99-79 win at Detroit, its third game without Rose after he was lost for the season due to a torn meniscus suffered in last Friday's loss at Portland.
They were blasted for a 39-point defeat against the Los Angeles Clippers in the next game, then took an overtime loss against league-worst Utah on Monday despite holding the Jazz to 38.8 percent shooting.
Chicago's defense put the clamps down on the Pistons in the second half, giving up just 26 points on 27.8 percent shooting after letting them hit 58.5 percent of their shots in the first 24 minutes.
"They made some shots in the first half, but I liked the way we were playing offensively," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "In the second half, we got our defensive intensity going."
Ninety-nine points was seemingly an offensive explosion for a club that had scored 87 or fewer in four of its last five games. Luol Deng continued to assert himself as the Bulls' top scorer, pouring in a season-high 27 points. He's averaging 24.3 and shooting 52.2 percent in the three games without Rose after averaging 15.7 points on 40.8 percent shooting in his previous 11 contests.
Deng is also posting career-best averages in rebounding (7.4), assists (3.4) and steals (1.3).
"Luol was off the charts the whole game," Thibodeau told the team's official website. "You can talk about how important he is to the team and what a good player he is. He's so strong in both areas of the game. He's a great offensive and defensive player. Luol is a big shot maker late. We know we have a guy who we can go to."
Deng is shooting 51.4 percent from 3-point range over his last 11 matchups with Cleveland, though he was 3 of 12 form the floor overall in Chicago's 96-81 home win on Nov. 11, the Bulls' 12th victory in 13 meetings. Chicago scored 29 points off 18 Cleveland turnovers.
The Cavaliers (4-12) dropped their fifth straight game Friday with a 103-88 loss at Boston. Playing Chicago likely wont cure Cleveland's offensive lull, as the team is averaging 90.7 points through a 1-8 stretch, including four games with 86 points or fewer.
The Cavaliers managed just 10 points in Friday's first quarter and shot 37.2 percent for the game.
"They threw the first punch tonight and I feel like we laid down. ... They controlled the whole game," said Dion Waiters, who scored 21 points. "We've got to be men. We've got to grow up. We can't just turn it around and think it's going to be easy. This is a man's league, so at the end of the day we've got to bring it."
Kyrie Irving had another inefficient performance, scoring 17 on 7-of-16 shooting with four turnovers compared to three assists. He's shooting 39.2 percent over his last four contests, including 1 of 16 from 3-point range. Irving has also struggled against Chicago, hitting just 35.7 percent of his field goals in four meetings. He was 5 of 19 for 16 points in the teams' earlier meeting.
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