The Basketball Nomad
Running Diary: Cavs/Bulls: THE LUKE WALTON GAME

Had some free time tonight, so I decided to sit down and watch the game between the Cavaliers and the Bulls. Kyrie Irving is gonna miss the game for Cleveland, and the Bulls have lost two of three while scoring 139 combined points in those two losses, and are coming off the worst shooting performance of the NBA season: 29% from the field. I’m probably going to regret this. LUOL DENG! DION WAITERS! NBA ACTION.


First off, I have to watch this on Comcast Sports Net, which means Neil Funk and Stacey King. I can’t stand either of these guys, so I might watch most of the game on mute. I know a lot of Bulls fans like King, but I am not one for commentators randomly shouting things in the middle of play. Regardless, I’m really sad that we’re missing Kyrie Irving. Any chance to see the kid play is a good one, and that’s gonna be something I am upset about throughout this game. Looks like instead, our main matchup to watch will be how Tristan Thompson and Carlos Boozer square off. Boozer needs to have a big night offensively for me to have much faith in the Bulls offense getting back on track, and that’s gonna be tough against Thompson. Kirk Hinrich will be playing again tonight for the Bulls after missing a slew of games this month, which is awesome, because he’s going to be a great boost over Nate Robinson in the backcourt. Looks like the Cavs will be starting Shaun Livingston at the point tonight. Also, the broadcast just spotlighted Thompson and Rip Hamilton as the key guys tonight. Wooooo.

1st Quarter

11:30-Bulls start the game with a Noah turnover. Par for the course for the Bulls the last few games. They had 26 turnovers against Miami and 17 against the Thunder, and that was a big factor in those two games being blowouts. Granted, so was terrible shooting against OKC, but still.

9:13-Bulls open up with a 7-2 run that is led by facilitation from Kirk Hinrich. This is what the Bulls have been missing since Hinrich went out. It’s clear Nate Robinson isn’t a distributor, and guys like Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng need that to be successful. A deep Boozer two off a screen n’ curl shows that.

8:33-Tyler Zeller struggle. He’s not played well this season and is off to a poor start, missing two bunny lay-ins. Gonna be interesting to see how he handles Noah.

7:09-11-2 Bulls, as the Cavs offense is struggling without their main man, Kyrie Irving. The offense struggles to have continuity without Irving in the lineup. I like Shaun Livingston, but he’s nowhere near a reasonable replacement.

5:18-Boozer vs. Thompson has a clear Carlos Boozer advantage, as he scores again for his third bucket. Thompson has some nice buckets too, but Boozer’s actually playing good defense so far, as Thompson has 7 points on just 3-6 shooting. Bulls up, 13-7.

4:16-Boozer! The Bulls ball movement has been great tonight. Solid dish from Noah to a cutting Boozer who just dunked on someone’s head. I loved that play. Great ball movement, great awareness by Boozer, terrible defense by Thompson and Marreese Speights for Cleveland.

3:22-Cavs back to only down four, as the Bulls biggest weakness (Nate Robinson’s affinity for jacking up deep threes) combines with the Cavs biggest strength tonight (Letting Tristan Thomspon do things), to cut the lead. Thompson gets the foul of Boozer, and suddenly this matchup has gotten fun: Boozer: 4-5, 9 points, 2 rebounds. Thompson: 3-6, 9 points, 3 rebounds. Fun stuff here.

2:02-Cavs tie it up. They haven’t gotten any easy shots tonight, but a Speights putback and open Gee three have made this suddenly a somewhat fun game. The Cavs also have started playing defense, which is nice.

1:24-Luke Walton sighting! He’s guarding Jimmy Butler. GET THE BALL TO BUTLER, CHICAGO.

0:48: Wayne Ellington hits a big two to take the lead, and then Speights blows up a Nate Robinson lay-up attempt. It is very clear that the Cavs bench is better than Chicago’s, especially with no Taj Gibson. This last four minutes has been owned by Cleveland, shooting just 37% but willing their way to a close game.

0:00-Jimmy Butler wide-open three to end the quarter, as Luke Walton fails to close out in any reasonable fashion. No one saw that coming. Overall a relatively average quarter. Neither team is shooting any reasonable percentage, but it’s clear the Cavs miss Irving. Shot selection has been iffy and the team only has two assists, and they’ve relied (reasonably so) on Tristan Thompson for a lot of the offense. Hopefully they can keep it close.

2nd Quarter

10:12-Back and forth we go, as a Luol Deng two gets followed by the weirdest play of the night: A Luke Walton made fast break layup! Maybe he’s not as useless as we thought. The Bulls take a timeout to reassess the decision matrix that led to that play. Understandable. Deng, meanwhile, is 3-4 for 7 points, and has turned it on a bit here since halfway through the first quarter. Cavs up 25-24.

9:58-WHAT. EMPHATIC block of a C.J. Miles layup by Kirk Hinrich. Hopefully I get a GIF of that. Kirk is a game changer for this Bulls team after relative obscurity these past two seasons. The effort they’ve been missing at the guard position is finally back. He also gets an open three at the other end, and has 6 points.

8:22- “That’s free cheese all night long.” Annnnnd on mute you go, Stacey King. Thibs gets T’d up as well for unknown reasons. 32-29 Cavs.

6:59-Jimmy Butler gets sealed in the paint by a nice screen as Dion Waiters cruises in for an easy layup. He’s got 6 on 3-5 shooting, and the Cavs look to just now be hitting their stride offensively. They’ve improved to 44% shooting and lead by 5.

5:53-C.J. Miles for three! Dion Waiters made that happen by shambling on in to the paint again. Interior defense for the Bulls is significantly decreased when Noah and Gibson aren’t on the floor, and the Bulls are trying to compensate, but leaving dudes open on the outside. Costly drawback to the Gibson injury, because no one can defend the paint when Noah’s not out there. Apparently Waiters thought he was fouled and drew a technical, but it’s still a 5-point game.

5:34-Cavs should probably work on covering Kirk Hinrich from outside. Wide-open three by Hinrich followed by another three from Marco Belinelli, and the Bulls have the lead again.

4:13-And there’s another wide-open 18-footer for Boozer. That is his shot, and he’s hit two beauties tonight. The Bulls lead by three at the timeout thanks to 6-9 shooting and 13 points for Boozer.

3:51-Hey look! Waiters cuts in and dishes again, and that leads to an open two for Shaun Livingston. Also Tyler Zeller rejects a Belinelli layup for his first positive moment of the game. Cavs now back up 43-40.

1:59-Deng gets a nice layup off a Butler steal, and it looks like Butler rolled his ankle there. He’ll stay out on the floor, but a nice defensive play.

1:13-Alonzo Gee off a screen for a nice lay-in in the lane? Why not? Now he has six, and we’re getting some nice Tyler Zeller high screens. Butler got caught there and let Gee get away. I will say that is a big Zeller strength. His high screens are divine. As someone who loves setting high screens in pickup basketball, he’s a man after my own heart.

0:44-Lamborghini Mercy, Joakim Noah. Great running slam to put the Bulls up with his first bucket of the game. Nice ball fake and terrible interior D from Zeller and Shaun Livingston, who rightfully looked terrified of Noah.

0.04-The Cavs tie the game at 48 thanks to what else, but terrible interior defense, as Dion Waiters coasts in for the easy bucket. It was definitely an interesting second quarter, as terrible Bulls interior D and Cavs perimeter D led to some solid offense from both sides. Cavs shooting 47% from the field, led by 10 from Dion Waiters and 9 from Tristan Thompson, who really, really cooled off in the second quarter. For the Bulls, they’ve been hot with 6-13 threes, and Boozer and Deng both have 13. The Cavs bench destroyed the Bulls bench, however, and it’ll be interesting to see if the defensive shortcomings get fixed in the second half, or whether the Bulls can get more productivity from Marco Belinelli and Joakim Noah, both of whom have struggled so far.

3rd Quarter

9:52-Cavs come out firing, getting a three from Gee to take a 53-52 lead. Gee’s been kinda fun to watch tonight. He’s usually a pretty mediocre player, but he’s played pretty well tonight, with 9 points.

8:14-Tristan Thompson picks up foul number 4, and takes a seat with 9 points and 7 boards. This means we get to see Luke Walton attempt to cover Carlos Boozer YESSSSSSSS.

6:06-Luke Walton’s last 30 seconds: open two, steal, assist after driving on Joakim Noah. What???? Cavs also draw a Carlos Boozer charge, and it’s currently a three-point lead for the Cavs. Chicago’s getting bulldozed by the Cavs on the boards as well, with Cleveland leading 27-19.

4:18-Both teams are heating up, and a Joakim Noah tip-in puts the Cavs only up 68-67. Noah now with 4 blocks in a still off-night for him, but he’s still making an impact. Meanwhile for the Cavs, Waiters is still dicing the Bulls for 17 points.

2:41-Consecutive offensive fouls for the Bulls as Noah and Belinelli take charges. This is what has been getting the Bulls in trouble as of late. Reckless play on offensive is becoming the norm, and that’s two possessions that would have probably been made baskets.

1:53-LUKE WALTON. Hits another deep two to make it 72-67. This has been a weird game for Walton, who’s actually been productive with 6 points, 3 boards and 3 assists. It’s like he’s a real basketball player!

0:58-Brilliant sequence by Noah, who finishes a nice Nate Robinson oop then draws a Marreese Speights charge on the other end. Suddenly, it’s 72-71 as the Cavs are fading offensively.

0:00-Behind the back pass by Luke Walton to Wayne Ellington for a quarter-ending three puts the Cavs up 4. Because of course it does. The Bulls are playing well offensively behind some consistent scoring from both Boozer, who has 19/4/3, and Luol Deng, who has 20. However, the Bulls need to keep this up and up their game on the defensive end, because Gee, Waiters and Luke Walton are killing them.

4th Quarter

10:35-And there’s why I love Marreese Speights. Stayed with a rebound to get Luke Walton the ball, who helped swing it to Ellington for another three. He’s gritty, and always willing to do little stuff like that. He’s probably been the player who’s benefited most from being traded this season. Cleveland loves him.

8:52-Deng with a wonderful sequence there, as he pulls down a rebound and then at the other end grabs another missed layup to force a foul. He’s sitting here with 22 points and has been the best scorer out there for Chicago. It’s been a very quiet 22, but that was a very loud play. He hits both to make it 81-78.

8:31-Waiters with another big shot. He’s 8-14 tonight and has been amazingly effective. Also, just checked and Luke Walton has played 19 minutes tonight. I don’t get it either.

7:32-Bulls timeout because Tyler Zeller just blew by Carlos Boozer to extend the Cavs lead to 9. Carlos Boozer defense is a well-documented disaster, but there’s absolutely no reason to bite on a Tyler Zeller pump fake in the corner. Absolutely none.

5:35-Boozer bricks a 10-footer. It’s been a rough quarter for him. Defensive lapses, two fouls, and only one made basket and one rebound. On the other end, Wayne Ellington gets two freebies and it’s a 5-point game.

4:27-I must say that Boozer has turned it on here in the past two minutes. Two big buckets for C-Booze to keep the Bulls in it, down 5.

3:42-Oh man Luol Deng just chased down Alonzo Gee on a fast break and stripped the ball away off Gee. That was so pretty. Three-point game.

2:54-Noah rebound. Hinrich two. One point game. Remember when I thought this game would suck? It’s been pretty damn fun. The Cavs need a response here, and the Bulls better lock down Waiters.

2:14-Deng bricks a long three, Butler rebound, Boozer miss, Noah foul. That was a fairly derpy possession for the Bulls. Didn’t need that at all.

1:21-Shaun Livingston just plucked a rebound away from Deng and hits a deep two over Boozer. 97-92 Cavs. That was an amazing sequence for Livingston. He’s played admirably replacing Irving, with 13 points on 6-11 shooting and consistent tough defense on Hinrich and Robinson.

1:11-Big rebound from Deng on a Hinrich miss, and then gets the foul. Here’s where having Deng helps. He’s a proven clutch guy and is gonna be big for Chicago down the stretch. Hits both freebies.

1:03-Of course, they have to overcome anti-clutch from Carlos Boozer, who fouls Tristan Thompson hard after Alonzo Gee beats Noah into the lane. Thompson hits one of two, and the Bulls take a timeout down 4. LEAGUE PASS ALERT.

0:38-Missed Waiters three and Thompson loses it out of bounds as Jimmy Butler forces him out. Bulls have a chance here down two with 29 seconds left. Need a big offensive performance, and Thibs takes a timeout to draw one up.

0:16-Deng misses. Luke Walton rebound. I give up. Shaun Livingston nails both free throws to make it a 4-point game, and Luke Walton steals it from Kirk Hinrich. Cavs ball. This has been the weirdest crunch-time ever.

0:10-Smart play by the Cavs to swing the ball to Dion Waiters, who is fouled and sinks both. We get a Noah slam to end it, but it’s a 101-98 win for the Cavs. What a weird ending to a good game. The Cavs ultimately were able to make some big plays, thanks to Luke Walton’s 8/5/5, and some clutch play from Shaun Livingston. These are the games you like to see if you’re a Cavs fan. Got some unlikely contributions, some big play from Dion Waiters, who had 25, and nailed their free throws late. The Bulls played well, but couldn’t cut down on interior slashing from the Cavs, and unfortunately, couldn’t get big performances from Boozer (27/5/4) and Deng (26/7/5) to transfer to the final moments. The Bulls look awful right now and need to rebound, soon. While the Cavs may not be great this season, we’ll always have the Luke Walton Game.

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