The Chicago Sun Times take on the Cavs loss to the Bulls Thursday night.
Â As expected, the United Center crowd of 22,097 booed Ben Wallace repeatedly during his return Thursday night. What wasn’t expected was the fans expending even more energy cheering the home team.
With a rare strong second half, the Bulls overcame a so-so first half to rally for a 107-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in one of their best performances of the season.
Now the Bulls (25-36) also have won back-to-back games for just the fourth time this season — and the first time since late December.
”It was nice to get a quality win against a real good opponent, and the way we did it was kind of the old Chicago Bulls’ way the last couple of seasons,” Bulls coach Jim Boylan said. ”Our defense in the second half was outstanding. Our rebounding … every time they took a shot, we had two or three guys around the glass trying to get it.”
The Bulls, led by Ben Gordon and Luol Deng with 23 points apiece, had six players in double figures. But the statistic that jumped off the stat sheet was the season-high 20 rebounds hauled in by rookie Joakim Noah in 32Â½ minutes of playing time.
The best rebounding output that Wallace could manage in 51 games with the Bulls before he was traded to Cleveland two weeks ago was 19.
”That’s a good game for [Noah],” Wallace said. ”It’s good to see him do well.”
Noah, who moved into the starting lineup when Wallace was dealt, said he was extra motivated playing against his former mentor.
”Sometimes the ball goes your way,” Noah said. ”I don’t want to say too much because I have to play against Kevin Garnett [tonight] and I think he’s a pretty good rebounder.”
Despite bringing in four new players to provide help for LeBron James, the Cavaliers (35-27) looked like a one-man team Thursday.
James followed his 50-point effort Wednesday night in New York with a game-high 39 points, but the Bulls threw a blanket around the NBA’s top scorer in the second half. He managed just 13 points on 3-for-12 shooting after a big first half.
”It was a team effort, definitely,” Bulls guard Larry Hughes said. ”We wanted to make him make the pass early. Being his teammate, I know he likes to make the pass late because he’s so strong and can end up finishing if you don’t fully commit. We just fully committed to him and were able to get back to the other guys.”
The Cavs led 51-47 at halftime behind 26 points from James.
But the Bulls charged out in the second half to take command by outscoring Cleveland 34-16 in the third quarter for an 81-67 lead.
The Cavs lead the NBA with 15 fourth-quarter comebacks this season, and it appeared they might have a shot at 16 after scoring the first five points of the final period to make it 81-72. But the Bulls answered with five straight points and the closest the Cavs could get was 86-78 with nine minutes left.
The Bulls iced the game — and sent James to the bench for good — with 11 straight points for a 100-80 advantage with five minutes to play.
Although many in the crowd came to boo Wallace, they seemed to put more effort into cheering the home team — something they haven’t done much of this season.
”It was cool,” Wallace said of the boos. ”It wasn’t loud, but it was cool.”
Source:Â Chicago Sun Times