Bulls put winning streak on line vs. Cavs
CLEVELAND — For once, the Cleveland Cavaliers will not be the hottest team on the court.
The Chicago Bulls come to Cleveland Thursday winners of their last seven games, including Wednesday’s 112-94 victory over the Orlando Magic.
The Cavs lost their last game, a 119-116 setback Tuesday in Milwaukee that snapped a five-game winning streak.
Cleveland’s not exactly cold — it has won 18 of the last 20, including a 113-91 decision over the Bulls on Dec. 4 — but Chicago is the one with the streak.
And no Bulls player logged more than 29 minutes Wednesday, so the team should be relatively fresh despite playing on the second night of back to back games.
“Our chemistry is great,” Denzel Valentine told the Chicago Tribune. Valentine led the Bulls with 16 points. “We have to keep it up.”
The Bulls have not lost since Nikola Mirotic returned to the court. Mirotic, who’s averaging 19.6 points and scored 15 in the win over the Magic Wednesday, missed Chicago’s first 23 games from injuries suffered when teammate Bobby Portis punched him in the face right before the season started.
Mirotic, who is 6-10, gives the Bulls another big body to throw at LeBron James, who is averaging 28.5 points, 9.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds in Cleveland’s two wins over Chicago this season.
The Bulls had lost 10 straight before Mirotic rejoined the team.
Mirotic, who has made a habit of predicting victories during Chicago’s winning streak, wouldn’t guarantee a win against the Cavaliers, but he likes the Bulls chances.
“We are going there to win, of course,” Mirotic said. “We’re going to do our best for sure and the way we’ve been playing the last seven games is completely different.”
The Cavs have won 11 straight at home. Also, Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade each scored 24 against the Bulls the last time the two teams played.
In Cleveland’s last game, Wade led the second unit on a torrid comeback against the Bucks, who were leading by 20 in the fourth quarter but saw that lead evaporate thanks to Wade, three other reserves, and Jae Crowder.
Wade scored nine points in the fourth. James, who also scored nine, didn’t return until there was 3:38 left.
“Every night is not going to be a great night, where you do everything perfect, but all we tried to do is be resilient, stick with our game plan,” Wade said. “We was playing together, and tried to give ourselves a chance to win. We gave ourselves a chance to win but just didn’t do it.”
The Cavs, as usual, did not practice on Wednesday. According to cleveland.com, the Cavs have held just three practices since this current stretch of 18 wins in 20 games started on Nov. 11.
“Guys are in here on off days every single time we have an off day,” James said. “When we don’t practice, guys are in here working on their game and (coach Tyronn Lue) just trusts us that we’re going to be ready to go in the games, because we don’t have much practice time.
“That’s huge for any team, but especially for a veteran ball club, that you have a coach that trusts you.”