Changing coaches did nothing to change the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bad record against good teams.
Tyronn Lue’s coaching debut went badly Saturday night as the Cavaliers heard boos from their home crowd in a 96-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls, who got 25 points and 10 rebounds from Spanish star Pau Gasol and stopped a two-game slide.
“I’ve been booed before, along with a lot of these guys,” Lue said.
“That’s not a big deal.”
Lue replaced David Blatt, who was fired Friday despite guiding the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals last season and a 30-11 mark this season, the best in the Eastern Conference. But recent losses to San Antonio and defending champion Golden State led to his dismissal.
Lue made some minor tweaks to the rotation but was unable to reverse Cleveland’s record against the NBA’s elite. The Cavs (30-12) are a combined 1-5 against Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Chicago. LeBron James collected 26 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists but made just 11-of-27 shots for Cleveland, which shot just 37 percent (35-of-94) from the field, including 4-of-24 from three-point range. The Cavs also made just 9-of-22 free throws.
“It’s a make or miss league and tonight we couldn’t make any shots,” James said.
The Bulls took the lead for good when the Cavs missed their last 14 shots of the opening period. Chicago held a 44-39 halftime advantage and began to pull away in the third quarter.
“It’s a great sign when you come into a place like this that was buzzing,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We went out and we were aggressive. We got that lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back.”
Gasol’s jumper gave the Bulls a 53-47 lead and triggered a 21-8 burst. The surge featured two more buckets by Gasol and nine points from Montenegro’s Nikola Mirotic. As the margin grew to 17 points late in the period, fans at Quicken Loans Arena began booing.
“I wanted to be a little more aggressive, get in a rhythm early,” said Gasol, who also had six assists. “When I get a couple of shots early on in the paint, I feel like I’m in better rhythm.”
“We got tired,” Lue said. “I just don’t think we’re in good enough shape right now to play in the style that we want to play.”
Two more jumpers by Gasol slowed a fourth-quarter rally by the Cavs, who pulled within 86-78 on two free throws by J.R. Smith with 2:06 to play. But Taj Gibson had a three-point play and a jumper to seal the win.
James scored 16 of Cleveland’s 24 points in the fourth quarter, when star teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love went scoreless. As time ran out, there were more boos. Jimmy Butler scored 20 points, Mirotic added 17 and Gibson had 15 for the Bulls, who shot 44 percent (38-of-87) and improved to 2-0 vs. the Cavs this season. “We needed it,” Gasol said. “Their our direct rival for our conference.”
Sacramento Kings 108, Indiana Pacers 97: Red-hot DeMarcus Cousins scored a career-high 48 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the surging Kings won their fifth in a row. Paul George scored 34 points for the Pacers, who went 1-3 on their road trip.
Charlotte Hornets 97, New York Knicks 84: Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin scored 26 points apiece for the host Hornets, who held Carmelo Anthony to nine points and beat the Knicks for the fifth straight time.
New Orleans Pelicans 116, Milwaukee Bucks 99: Ryan Anderson scored 23 points off the bench for the host Pelicans, who have won three in a row and five of six. Greg Monroe had 22 points and 11 boards for the Bucks.
Minnesota Timberwolves 106, Memphis Grizzlies 101: Shabazz Muhammad scored a season-high 25 points for the host Timberwolves, who won for just the second time since Dec. 30. The Grizzlies had a four-game winning streak stopped.
Phoenix Suns 98, Atlanta Hawks 95: Archie Goodwin scored 24 points, including a three-pointer with 0.1 seconds left, and Tyson Chandler grabbed 27 rebounds as the host Suns won for just the second time in 17 games.
Denver Nuggets 104, Detroit Pistons 101: Italy’s Danilo Gallinari scored 30 points for the host Nuggets, who dealt the Pistons their fifth loss in seven games.
Portland Trail Blazers 121, Los Angeles Lakers 103: Damian Lillard scored 36 points and C.J. McCollum added 28 for the host Trail Blazers, who handed the Lakers their sixth straight setback.
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