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Cavs bounce back from close loss to show they can win tight game | Jeff Schudel

Feb. 14—Coach J.B. Bickerstaff before tipoff Feb. 14 with the Bulls was asked what the Cavaliers must do to get back on the winning track after losing to the 76ers, 123-121, two nights earlier. The Cavs in that game got off to a sluggish start and then expended all their energy fighting back, but came up short when a 3-point attempt by Darius Garland at the buzzer failed to find the bottom of the net.

Fast starts set the tone for the streak in which the Cavs won 17 of 18 and nine straight before falling to the Sixers. Bickerstaff wanted to see the Cavs get back to that aggressive style of basketball against the Bulls.

"I think it's kind of a feel that our guys need to have," Bickerstaff said. "They need to have a little bit of an edge, get back to the details of all the things that we've done both defensively and offensively, and just maintain our focus on those things.

"That's what has led to our wins, is coming out being extremely focused, extremely detail-oriented, and limiting our mistakes."

The Cavaliers did not get off to a fast start against the Bulls. In fact, they didn't lead until a three-point shot by Georges Niang with 10:40 left in the fourth quarter pushed them ahead, 79-78.

The score was tied nine times and the lead changed hands seven times in the final 12 minutes before the Cavaliers prevailed, 108-105. Garland proved he did not carry the burden of missing the game-winner against the 76ers with him when he drained a step-back 3 from 26 feet to give the Cavs the lead for good, 103-100, with 1:14 to play.

Being in a nip-and-tuck game in the fourth quarter for the second time in three nights is a preview of what the Cavs can expect in the playoffs.

"The playoffs are going to be tight, play-by-play situations, so we have to learn from that and lock in," said Isaac Okoro, who scored 16 points off the bench and was 4-of-8 on 3-pointers. "We all know what D.G. (Garland) has. It was fun (watching Garland hit the crucial 3-pointer). I'm used to it. It's nothing out of the ordinary. He's a closer for us. We're all used to it."

The game with the Bulls was the final one for the Cavs before the week-long All-Star break begins Feb. 15. Donovan Mitchell is the only player representing the Cavs in the All-Star Game Feb. 18 in Indianapolis, which might explain why most of the rest of the team played the first half against the Bulls as though the All-Star break had already begun.

The Bulls led, 46-29, midway through the second quarter. The crowd at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse was as listless as the Cavs. The fans were so quiet they might as well have been watching a librarian replacing books on the library shelves. They didn't get involved until the fourth quarter when they booed the officials for calls that went against the Cavaliers.

The game didn't unfold the way Bickerstaff might have envisioned it, but the Cavs won. They are heading to the All-Star break winners of 18 of their last 20 games and in second place in the NBA East — a good way to start a seven-day vacation.