CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers were 9-38 overall and losers of three straight and 15 of their last 16. The Chicago Bulls were 10-36 and had dropped 10 in a row.
Something had to give, and it was the Cavs, who have been doing a ton of giving lately.
Cleveland lost to Chicago for the third time in as many meetings this season, this one a hard-to-watch 104-88 debacle in a Monday matinee game at Quicken Loans Arena.
“Chicago came in here and did what they had to do,” Cavs coach Larry Drew said after watching his league-worst team get dominated by a Bulls club that began the day with the second-worst record in the NBA.
In fairness, the injury-ravaged Cavs were coming off a six-game West Coast trip and didn’t get home until 4:30 a.m. Sunday, but given the way they performed in this one, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if they had been given a week to prepare.
“I’m not going to use that as an excuse or as a crutch,” Drew said of the road trip. “Early, I could see they did not have their legs. They were not able to get it going.
“I don’t know how much of that can be attributed to road fatigue, but clearly we didn’t have the zap, we didn’t have the energy throughout the game. I really thought at some point it would kick in, but we did not have it.”
The Cavs trailed by 16 early in the second half and again with three minutes to go in the third quarter, but made it a 76-67 game when Cedi Osman drove and scored to end the period.
The Bulls then scored the first 10 points of the fourth to go up 19. Not long after, it was a 21-point game as Chicago dominated the Cavs for the second time in three meetings this season. Overall, Cleveland’s last six losses have come by at least 16 points.
“Things just got away from us,” Cavs rookie point guard Collin Sexton said.
No one played well for the Cavs, as starting small forward Rodney Hood had eight points on 1-for-8 shooting and starting shooting guard Alec Burks had three on 1-for-7. Backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova added three points on 1-for-6 and playing-out-of-position power forward Osman didn’t have a rebound in 32 minutes.
Sexton led Cleveland with 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting but didn’t have an assist in 29 minutes, while Ante Zizic excelled in garbage time to finish with 13 points and nine boards.
Jordan Clarkson had 12 points but went just 4-for-12 from the field, leaving 10-day contract signee and former Bull Cameron Payne (11 points, four rebounds, three assists) as the Cavs’ most productive player on this day.
High-flying shooting guard Zach LaVine led Chicago with 25 points in 25 minutes, Bobby Portis had 15 points off the bench and power forward Lauri Markkanen had 13 points and eight boards. Point guard Chris Dunn added 13 points, four rebounds and a game-high nine assists.
The Bulls finished 15-for-30 on 3-pointers, while the Cavs, who rarely ran an offense and frequently bricked shots even when they did, were 6-for-27. Some unlikely suspects hit threes for Chicago, too, as Portis went 3-for-6 and Jabari Parker was 2-for-3.
“We gave guys dare shots and they knocked them down,” Drew said. “Anybody’s capable of making threes on any given night.”
The Bulls led by 16 points early in the second quarter before they remembered they were the Bulls — and the Cavs started playing a little defense.
Chicago followed a 31-point first period with a 17-point effort in the second and saw its lead shrink to 48-42 at halftime, but quickly got its lead back to 16 in the third.
“It gets the monkey off our backs,” Dunn said of ending the 10-game losing streak. “It sucks to lose 10 in a row. It’s frustrating. Now we can breathe a little bit and try to build from it.”
The game lived down to expectations immediately, as the teams combined to go 1-for-13 from the field at the outset. Cleveland went on to miss its first nine shots, yet trailed just 7-3 when Sexton hit a 3-pointer with 7:52 left in the opening period.
Cavs not named Sexton — he had the team’s first eight points — were scoreless on 0-for-11 shooting until Osman hit a bucket at the 3:49 mark.
“I didn’t feel it at all,” Sexton said of the season-long road trip. “We got rest (Sunday), so there’s no excuses.”
Bulls 104, Cavaliers 88
CHICAGO (104): Hutchison 2-3 3-4 8, Markkanen 5-11 0-0 13, Lopez 4-9 0-0 8, Dunn 5-10 2-2 13, LaVine 9-16 4-6 25, Parker 2-5 4-4 10, Felicio 0-0 0-0 0, Portis 6-10 0-0 15, Arcidiacono 1-3 0-0 3, Harrison 1-2 0-0 3, Blakeney 0-2 1-2 1, Selden 1-5 3-4 5. Totals 36-76 17-22 104.
CLEVELAND (88): Hood 1-8 2-2 4, Osman 3-7 1-2 8, Zizic 4-7 5-6 13, Sexton 7-17 2-3 18, Burks 1-7 1-1 3, Adel 0-0 0-0 0, Blossomgame 3-8 1-2 7, Frye 3-4 1-2 9, Dellavedova 1-6 1-2 3, Payne 4-11 2-4 11, Clarkson 4-12 4-5 12. Totals 31-87 20-29 88.
Chicago 31 17 28 28—104
Cleveland 18 24 25 21— 88
3-Point Goals—Chicago 15-30 (Markkanen 3-5, LaVine 3-6, Portis 3-6, Parker 2-3, Dunn 1-1, Hutchison 1-1, Harrison 1-2, Arcidiacono 1-3, Lopez 0-1, Selden 0-2), Cleveland 6-27 (Frye 2-2, Sexton 2-6, Osman 1-4, Payne 1-5, Hood 0-2, Dellavedova 0-3, Clarkson 0-5). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Chicago 50 (Lopez, Hutchison 9), Cleveland 38 (Zizic 9). Assists—Chicago 24 (Dunn 9), Cleveland 16 (Clarkson 4). Total Fouls—Chicago 26, Cleveland 18. Technicals—Portis. A—19,432 (20,562).