Cavaliers-Bulls Preview

The Associated Press

While they might feel a little better after their latest game, the Chicago Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau know they still have work to do to put their slow start behind them.

The Bulls will try to build on a lopsided victory Monday night against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers as former No. 1 overall picks Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving square off for the first time.

After its worst start since 2007-08, Chicago (2-3) blew out Utah 97-73 on Friday night with Luol Deng nearly registering his first triple-double. Deng had a team-leading 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Bulls, who had their best defensive performance of the season.

Chicago held the Jazz to 29.4 percent from the field after allowing an average of 98.0 points on 44.2 percent shooting in its first four games.

"We still have a lot of questions we have to (answer)," Thibodeau said. "One game doesn't mean everything is straightened out. We have to take a hard look at ourselves and make the necessary corrections."

Rose is among those still trying to get back in the groove for the Bulls. He's committing a league-worst 5.0 turnovers per game and shooting 32.0 percent after sitting out the entire 2012-13 season with a torn ACL. Rose has yet to score more than 18 points or hand out more than six assists.

"The worst thing to do would be try to force it," he said. "That's not my game. I'm going to let it come naturally. I'm going to do what the team needs me to do. I'm going to play the way I normally play. It's going to come."

Rose is averaging 24.5 points and 8.2 assists in his last 11 games against the Cavaliers (3-4), including five in the playoffs.

However, the former MVP has never matched up with Irving, his young point guard counterpart with Cleveland who is coming off one of his best performances.

Irving scored 39 points - two shy of his career best - and handed out 12 assists as Cleveland edged Philadelphia 127-125 in double overtime Saturday. After missing potentially game-winning shots in regulation and the first extra period, Irving made a layup with 0.6 seconds left to help his team avoid a third consecutive defeat.

"He's a spectacular player," coach Mike Brown said. "When you have a guy like Kyrie, you're going to have plenty of opportunities to win. Each time I thought he took the right shot. I applaud him to try to close the game the right way. When the game was on the line, we put the ball in his hands to go get it for us."

Irving has missed four of a potential seven matchups with the Bulls over his career due to injury or illness. He's averaged 14.3 points - his third-fewest against any opponent - in those three games against Chicago and lost them all even though Rose didn't play in any of them.

With Irving resting a sore knee in the teams' last meeting, Dion Waiters scored 25 points as Cleveland snapped an 11-game regular-season skid in the series with a 101-98 victory in Chicago on Feb. 26.

Waiters scored 24 on Saturday and is averaging 21.0 points in his last three games, compared to 9.5 through the Cavaliers' first four.

Deng is averaging 22.3 points on 58.5 percent shooting in the past three games against Cleveland while Carlos Boozer has scored a combined 51 in the last two.

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