CHICAGO (AP) – Derrick Rose drove hard to the rim and heard those familiar “MVP! MVP!” chants from the crowd. The star point guard was in top form, and so were the Bulls.
Rose scored 30 points, and Chicago handed Cleveland just its second loss in 16 games, beating the Cavaliers 113-98 Thursday night.
Pau Gasol added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Snell scored 22, helping offset a 31-point performance by LeBron James, and Bulls sent another strong signal that their recent struggles might be behind them.
They won their fourth straight after dropping 10 of 15 and entered the All-Star break with a 1 1/2-game lead in the Central division over the Cavaliers. Leading the way was their former MVP point guard, a player who missed most of the previous two seasons because of injuries to each knee.
“I’m just letting my game come to me,” Rose said. “That’s all I’m doing. I’m being patient with the ball. … I’m trying to read the defense and pass the ball to the right people that are open.”
Is he happy with the way he’s playing?
“Yes, very pleased,” Rose said.
The Bulls led most of the way against the NBA’s hottest team and pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Both teams were missing key players, with Chicago’s Jimmy Butler nursing a strained right shoulder and Cleveland’s Kevin Love out with an abrasion in his right eye. But the Bulls did enough to come out on top.
Rose was aggressive from the start, going right at the rim, and finished two points shy of his season high.
Gasol posted his 14th straight double-double, the longest streak by a Bulls player since Michael Jordan’s 15-game run in 1988-89.
Snell came up big again after scoring a career-high 24 against Sacramento on Tuesday. He shot 9 of 11 for the second straight game and helped force eight turnovers by James.
Joakim Noah added 10 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, and Taj Gibson scored 13.
For Cleveland, it was a lethargic showing coming off a victory over Miami the previous night. Even so, 14 wins in 16 games isn’t a bad way to go into the break.
“We can go into the break feeling good about our chances going forward and with the knowledge there are several things we can improve on and do better,” coach David Blatt said. “That’s a good place to be.”
James had little help with Love sidelined after getting accidentally poked in the eye by the Heat’s Mario Chalmers, and his high turnover total only made things worse.
“I’ll figure it out. That cannot happen, for sure, for us to win long term,” James said.
Kyrie Irving had 17 points and seven assists but was 6 of 18 from the field. Timofey Mozgov added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Up by seven at halftime, the Bulls scored the first eight points of the third quarter to increase their lead to 63-48.
The Cavaliers made a run late in the period, closing within eight on James Jones’ 3 in the closing seconds. But Rose drove left and cut between two defenders for a neat reverse layup just before the buzzer, drawing loud cheers from the crowd and sending Chicago to the fourth quarter with an 87-77 lead.
The Bulls were up 105-86 after Rose’s 19-footer with just under five minutes remaining.
“Good attitude. We started the game well,” Gasol said. “We set the tone early. We played (well) defensively. We were aggressive for the most part. I saw a good approach to the game and a good performance.”
HE SAID IT:
Noah on James’ eight turnovers: “The Snelly Cat was all over the place. Snelly Cat was huge.”
Cavaliers: James had four assists, giving him 6,118 in his career and putting him in sole possession of second place on the NBA’s all-time list among forwards. He came in tied with John Havlicek but now trails only Scottie Pippen, who had 6,135
Bulls: Butler expects to play in Sunday’s All-Star game but will sit out the Skills Challenge, agent Happy Walters said.
Cavaliers: visit Washington on Feb. 20.
Bulls: visit Detroit on Feb. 20.
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