Bulls 95, Cavaliers 85

The Chicago Bulls got a boost from an unexpected source

Wednesday night.

Marco Belinelli, starting his second straight game in place of

injured shooting guard Richard Hamilton, scored a season-high 23

points and the Chicago Bulls took control early on to beat the

Cleveland Cavaliers 95-85.

Belinelli helped the Bulls bounce back from a four-point home

loss to Indiana on Tuesday, a game in which he scored only six

points in 24 minutes. He looked like a different player against the

Cavaliers, going 7 for 15 from the field.

”Marco scored in different ways tonight,” Chicago coach Tom

Thibodeau said. ”He drove, he got to the line, he was able to

catch-and-shoot. He’s a very good catch-and-shoot player, so we

wanted to play off that. Each day, he’s playing better.”

”It was good for me to get going early, and my teammates looked

to find me, which was good,” Belinelli said. ”I was just going to

be aggressive and keep trying my best.”

Luol Deng added 22 points for Chicago, which went ahead for good

less than two minutes in and shot 66.7 percent in the first


The Cavaliers have lost 13 of 15 and are 2-7 since point guard

Kyrie Irving broke his left index finger last month. Anderson

Varejao recorded his 10th straight double-double with 11 points and

15 rebounds – his 10th straight game with at least 15 boards.

Cleveland played without Irving and Dion Waiters, its two

leading scorers. Waiters missed his second straight game with a

sprained left ankle. Irving, the reigning rookie of the year,

averages 22.9 points and Waiters 15.2.

”We’ve got to play a damn near perfect game on both ends of the

floor,” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. ”The effort has been

great. It was great tonight. We’re just going to keep working.

That’s the only thing we can do.”

Donald Sloan scored a season-high 14 points to lead


All five Chicago starters reached double figures. Joakim Noah

had 13 points and 15 rebounds, Kirk Hinrich scored 11, and Carlos

Boozer had 10 points and 12 boards.

Cleveland has dropped 10 consecutive games against Chicago.

Both teams were shorthanded in the backcourt. The Bulls again

played without Hamilton, who sustained a left plantar fascia tear

in Saturday’s game against Philadelphia. He missed Tuesday’s and

could be sidelined for two weeks.

Chicago, which moved one game over .500, has played the entire

season without point guard Derrick Rose, who underwent

reconstructive surgery on his left knee during last season’s


”It takes time, but we’re getting there,” Deng said. ”We’ve

got a lot of guys who are new to the system.”

While the Bulls, who had the best regular-season record in the

Eastern Conference a year ago, can withstand injuries to key

players, the Cavaliers aren’t at that stage. Scott, however, won’t

use injuries as an excuse.

”It’s the NBA,” he said. ”We’re not the only team going

through having some guys who are hurt that you wish were out there.

We’ll play the guys we have available. We’re not going to cry about

the guys who aren’t here.”

Cleveland was plagued by a slow start for the second straight

game. The Cavaliers led 4-3, but it didn’t take long for the Bulls

to seize control. Chicago led 19-8 with just over four minutes to

play in the quarter. The Bulls were 12 of 18 from the field in the

period and led 27-11 going into the second quarter.

Cleveland trailed 30-17 after one quarter in Tuesday’s loss to

Detroit. The Bulls built a 45-27 lead, but the Cavaliers scored the

last eight points of the quarter to trail by 10 at halftime.

Cleveland briefly cut the lead to five and trailed 72-63 going into

the fourth quarter. The Bulls maintained a double-figure lead for

most of the final period.

Noah was hit with a technical for arguing a foul call against

teammate Taj Gibson in the fourth quarter. Cleveland guard Jeremy

Pargo was also given a technical for throwing the ball off

Belinelli’s face later in the quarter. Belinelli fouled Pargo going

to the basket, after which Pargo tossed the ball behind him,

hitting the Chicago player.

NOTES: The Bulls haven’t lost a regular-season game to the

Cavaliers since March 19, 2010. Cleveland beat Chicago in the first

round of the playoffs that season … Chicago, in a stretch of four

games in five nights, plays at Detroit on Friday. … Cleveland

travels to Minnesota on Friday.