This wasn’t the night Luol Deng expected against his old team. This wasn’t the way the Cavaliers wanted to start their longest homestand of the season.
Yet two games into this two-week stretch at home, all of the good vibes from a successful West Coast trip vanished with a 98-87 loss to a short-handed Bulls team that continues to dominate in this series.
Deng shot 2-for-11 and scored 11 points against his former team, which was playing without Kirk Hinrich, Carlos Boozer and, of course, Derrick Rose. But Taj Gibson matched a career high with 26 points, D.J. Augustin matched a season high with 27 points and the Bulls pulled away in the final two minutes.
“They got whatever they wanted,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said.
The Cavs cut the deficit to 84-81 with 4:11 left and were within 91-85 when Deng made two free throws with 1:52 left, but managed one basket the rest of the night as players complained about poor body language on the bench.
“You’d have thought we were down 20 points by our body language,” Kyrie Irving said. “We were only down six points.”
Irving scored 26 points, including 15 in a row in the second quarter, and Dion Waiters scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, but the Cavs shot just 38 percent and Augustin became the latest in a line of point guards to torment the Cavs. He entered the night averaging 8.9 points and shooting 41 percent, but has averaged 22.5 points and shot 58 percent in two games against Irving and the Cavs.
“Most of the time when he was coming off the pick-and-roll, he was wide open,” Irving said. “He was playing so free out there. We were trying to make adjustments and most of the time he was wide open.”
Deng greeted his former Bulls teammates with hugs and handshakes before and after the game, but played the worst game of his brief Cavs career in between.
“They played good D, I missed shots,” Deng said. “Not happy with my performance. … I could’ve played better.”
The trade of Deng to the Cavs was viewed as the Bulls giving up on the season and the Cavs loading up for a push toward the postseason, yet the Bulls are 7-2 since the trade and the Cavs are 3-4 with Deng. The Bulls were woefully short-handed in the last meeting between these teams last month and still drilled the Cavs by 16. They took the season series 3-1 and have won 17 of the past 19 games in this series.
“We’ve got guys that are going to have a great career in the NBA that can play, but we have to get together and do it as a team,” Deng said. “A lot of times out there, especially tonight, there’s a lot of individual effort and we have to change that mindset to doing it together. We have to figure out how to use our talent within the team and I think we can.”
By Jason Lloyd - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)
©2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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