CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls have had an entire season to adjust to playing without former MVP Derrick Rose, who is recovering from knee surgery.
On Tuesday at the United Center, Cleveland showed a better understanding of how to win without an All-Star guard.
The Cavaliers were without Kyrie Irving, sidelined by a sore right knee, but they used 25 points from rookie Dion Waiters to knock off the Bulls 101-98.
The Cavs continued their improved play and snapped an 11-game losing streak against Chicago. Cleveland (19-38) has gone 10-7 since Jan. 16.
Earlier this season, Cleveland went 2-9 without Irving when he had a broken left index finger.
"I think Kyrie is one of those guys who is so good, a lot of times you just rely on him," Cavs forward Luke Walton said. "Without him, we knew we were going to have to play a lot harder and a lot more focused. The Bulls have been kicking our butts the last 11 games. As athletes and competitors, that leaves a taste in your mouth."
In Irving's place, Illinois native Shaun Livingston got his first start with the Cavaliers and scored 15 points. For the Bulls, veteran point guard Kirk Hinrich was back in the lineup after missing 10 of the previous 11 games with a right elbow infection. He finished with 11 points and 11 assists.
Carlos Boozer led the Bulls (32-25) with 27 points, while Luol Deng added 26. After the game, Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau complained about the lack of attention to defense.
"We can't pick and choose, and we can't play one side of the ball," he said. "It can't be the offense one night, then the defense the next night, then you play one quarter. In this league, everyone is capable of beating you. Until we get the level of intensity up and play with high energy on both ends of the floor, play for 48 minutes, the result's not going to be good."
The game featured 19 lead changes, but Cleveland started to take control midway through the fourth quarter. A jumper by Waiters preceded two unimpeded driving layups by Waiters and fellow rookie Tyler Zeller, giving the Cavaliers an 87-78 advantage with 7:34 remaining.
"I thought they played harder than us the whole game," Deng said. "We were bad defensively. Even when they missed, they got the offensive rebound and they got the loose balls. We were pretty bad today."
Chicago closed within 88-84 on a lane jumper by Boozer. The Cavs answered with Wayne Ellington's runner and three-point play to go back ahead by seven.
A jumper by Livingston kept the lead at 93-86 with 4:49 left. The Bulls made a run with three more baskets by Boozer, then a baseline jumper from Hinrich cut the lead to 93-92 with 2:44 on the clock.
Waiters came back with a tough 17-foot jumper over Hinrich. After the Bulls missed twice on their next possession, Livingston soared to grab an offensive rebound, setting up a jumper by Luke Walton to give Cleveland a 97-92 edge with 1:21 left.
"To me, (Walton) deserved the game ball, if we were giving out one," Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. "He just knows how to play. Having him in there along with Shaun Livingston really calms guys down."
Chicago got two free throws from Deng and another two from Jimmy Butler to close within 98-96 and had a chance to tie after Waiters missed a 3-point attempt with 37.8 seconds to play. However, Deng missed a jumper from the top of key, and the Cavs finished off the win at the foul line.
NOTES: Irving suffered a hyperextended right knee injured in practice last week before Cleveland left for a three-game road trip. He played in the first two games of the trip at Orlando and Miami. "It's just one of those things that needs rest," Scott said. ... Bulls forward Taj Gibson did not play, and he could miss two weeks after suffering a sprained MCL in his left knee Sunday against Oklahoma City. Gibson said he jumped to block a shot and his leg collapsed when he landed on the foot of Thunder guard Reggie Jackson. ... Irving has never played against Rose in a regular-season NBA game. The two point guards keep missing each other because of various injuries. Rose appears to be closing in on a return from ACL surgery.