The Chicago Bulls Missed a Huge Chance To Take 2-0 Lead Against Cavs


After a convincing Game 1 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Chicago Bulls had a slow start to Game 2, which resulted in a loss. This has the Bulls headed back to the United Center with the series knotted at one game apiece. The Cavaliers started the game in a similar fashion to how the Bulls started Game 1, with a 13-2 run. The Bulls had a 10-2 run in Game 1, but seven early turnovers in Game 2 resulted in 13 of the Cavs’ 38 points in the first quarter.

LeBron James, who made the statement that he needed to be more aggressive in Game 2, delivered on his word. In Game 1, James scored just 19 points and committed six turnovers in the game. Some of those ignited the Bulls on fast breaks to get easy baskets. In Game 2, James was much more efficient and aggressive from the start of the game. He finished with 33 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. His margin for error was also reduced, as he only committed two turnovers in the game. James came out posting up, got almost all of his shots at the rim, and finished the first quarter five of seven from the field. His 14 points in that quarter gave the Cavs an early 20-point lead.

More from Bulls History

“For me I had to change my approach tonight knowing how shorthanded we are and be ultra-aggressive,which I’m not accustomed to doing, especially taking that many shots. I’ve never been a high-volume shooter. But I have to respond to my teammates. What my teammates want me to do, I try to respond doing it. This is a change at mindset for myself, and I have to do it, if that’s what my guys want me to do,” said James in a live NBA press conference.

The Cavaliers shooting nine for 15 from 3-point land in the first half also helped them build a 19-point lead at break, 64-45. The Bulls trailed the Cavs by as many as 25 points in Game 2 and battled all game to reduce the Cavaliers’ lead. With eight minutes left in the third quarter, the Bulls went on a 14-0 run behind Jimmy Bulter and Derrick Rose; Rose scored a layup off the glass, baseline over Timofey Mosgov, and a 3-point shot to cut the lead to 71-56. Butler later scored a 3-pointer off of a Rose drive and made the game 72-61, but the Cavs would build the lead back up to 16 with a pair of aggressive layups from James and made the score 85-69. The Bulls wouldn’t get much closer than that in a game the Cavs never trailed, and Chicago lost 109-91. The Bulls failed to go up 2-0 with J.R. Smith suspended for the first two games. Smith will return for Game 3 in Chicago.

James may be accustomed to playing as aggressive as he did in Game 2, but the Bulls aren’t accustomed to playing this style of defense. A defense that held the Milwaukee Bucks to 66 points in a game allowed 38 points in the first quarter by the Cavaliers in Game 2. The Bulls also let the Cavs score 36 points off of 3-point shooting. Chicago committed 12 turnovers in the game, and this has become a similar theme with this Bulls team.

“They came out with a lot of aggression and intensity,” Rose said in an interview conducted by Bulls TV. “We just have to be prepared for it, and match their intensity next time. Our biggest thing was defense, and making sure we get out on people, ”

What also should be noted is that the Bulls not only have the turnovers and the aggressiveness of James to deal with, but the team is also struggling to get calls, as the officials have allowed plenty of physical contact. The disparity in calls is clearly evident with Rose. In this series, he has attempted zero free throw attempts, while the Cavs star point guard Kyrie Irving has attempted 21 free throw shots through the first two games. According to Basketball Insiders, Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau came to the defense of his point guard. When reporters asked Thibodeau: “Why isn’t Rose getting to the free throw line?” Thibs replied that “[it] looks like there’s a lot of contact to me. I guess others don’t see it that way.”

The officials do play a major part in who wins the game based on the way they officiate. If they allow a physical game, then that obviously favors the Cavaliers. But the Bulls have to come out and be aggressive, so that the officiating doesn’t affect them. This was a huge loss for Chicago mainly because they failed to go up 2-0 with Smith suspended.

If the Bulls are going to win this series, then a few things have to happen. The first thing is that they have to find a way to defend the Cavaliers’ 3-point shooting. If the Bulls are going to give the Cavaliers 36 points a game off of 3-point shots, then this series will be over in five games. The second thing the Bulls have to do is get more aggressive when it comes to defending the paint.

The Cavaliers scored 42 points in the paint and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds out of 48 total rebounds in Game 2. The Bulls also have to cut their turnovers down to a minimum. We can all say they got the split, and so they should be fine. But they are 2-4 in their last six home games in the NBA Playoffs. If the Bulls want to give themselves a serious chance to win this series, then they will have to protect their home court, since they worked so hard to gain home-court advantage with a win in Game 1. Game 3 will be aired Friday at 8pm, on ESPN.

More from Pippen Ain't Easy