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10 observations: Bulls' 3-game win streak snapped by shorthanded Cavaliers

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The Chicago Bulls blew a prime opportunity to post their second four-game win streak of the season, falling 109-95 to an extremely shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers team on Saturday night at the United Center.

Here are 10 observations:

---The Cavaliers played without---deep breath---Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, Darius Garland, Caris LeVert, Sam Merrill and Ty Jerome. That’s three starters and two crucial reserves. Talk about an opportunity.

---And the Bulls didn’t take advantage early. They were lucky to only be trailing 32-30 after the first quarter since the Cavaliers missed several open looks from 3-point range. In fact, that seemed to be the Cavaliers’ strategy: Have local product Max Strus and Dean Wade run around and launch 3-pointers and then crash the offensive boards. They combined to shoot 2-for-10 in the first half, missing several open looks. The Cavaliers entered averaging 34.9 3-pointers per game and attempted 16 in the first quarter alone and 27 by halftime. They finished 12-for-45 from 3-point range.

---Billy Donovan altered his rotation in the first quarter. He played Jevon Carter earlier than usual, bringing him in at the 5 minute, 21 second mark of the first quarter. He also played him before Dalen Terry, who had been the sixth or seventh man in recent games. Terry, however, had the better first stint, scoring a season-high six points, while Carter missed five of six shots.

---Donovan burned his challenge at the 9:32 mark of the second quarter. Coincidentally, some of Donovan’s media session pregame centered on his challenging philosophy. Donovan said his priority is on “saving fouls” and “saving points,” even if this challenge centered on possession. Asked how much trust he places in players’ reactions, Donovan said he talks to his players to make sure they don’t cry wolf. And in this case, Alex Caruso’s reaction on an out-of-bounds call led to a successful challenge, giving Donovan another for later in the game.

---In another departure, Donovan used Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond together for a 2:13 stint in the second quarter. This was a nod to the Cavaliers already having 14 second-chance points. The Bulls finished plus-two in the short stint, which ended when Drummond drew his third foul.

Donovan tried it again with 2:50 left in the third quarter. This time, the Cavaliers outscored the Bulls 10-3 during their shared minutes.

---For the second straight game, the Bulls struggled from 3-point range while shooting an elite percentage from 2-point range. They shot 8-for-35 from 3-point range and 27-for-45 from 3-point range.

---The Cavaliers crushed the Bulls on the offensive glass all game, finishing with 30 second-chance points. The most glaring second-chance points came when Tristan Thompson tipped in a missed free throw. That can’t happen.

---Vucevic posted his 10th game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds this season. He’s one of eight players in the NBA to do so this season. The Bulls again placed five players in double figures---all the starters. But other than 3-point shooting, offense wasn’t the problem. Defense, including allowing offensive rebounds, was.

---Strus terrorized his hometown, and former, team with 26 points and seven assists. He had a poster dunk over Vucevic and hit several big shots down the stretch, quieting the crowd after one. He’s earned a reputation as a stone-cold competitor and not just a shooter for awhile now. And it showed.

---The Cavaliers also received huge games from Jarrett Allen, who had 19 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists, and rookie point guard Craig Porter Jr. He repeatedly kept his dribble alive to penetrate the lane and dish to open shooters. He finished with 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

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