Before last night, the Cavs had lost 11 consecutive contests to their division rivals. Kyrie was scratched with a sore/ hyperextended knee, and things looked predictablly grim at the game's outset.
But after a sloppy first few minutes, they settled down, played aggressive defense and drove to the bucket with great verve and velocity.
Rookie Dion Waiters was electrifying with the ball in his hands and Luke Walton contributed key minutes (including an impressive +/- differential of +13) and a game-clinching steal.
In general, our bigs put the necessary pressure on the Bulls' Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer to keep them from dominating on the boards and in the low post.
SOME KEYS, IN RETROSPECT:
—I can't stress enough that limiting the defensive production of Boozer and Noah was huge. Chicago's starting front court has averaged nearly 20 boards per game between them. Last night, Noah had 9 and Boozer had 5.
—Shaun Livingston looked confident as hell out there starting at PG for the injured Kyrie. He was 6 of 11 from the field, but it felt like he was draining everything, weaseling into pockets of open real estate and draining extemporized jumpers from mid-range.
—Waiters had a few careless drives, but was otherwise sensational. "Full head of steam," as they say. He's definitely got a score-first mentality, but last night it paid off.
—Wayne Ellington's contribution was a pleasant surprise. The deep balls for which he is known were fun — one at the third quarter buzzer — but his rebounding production was even more critical. Good positioning from the young master Wayne.
—Shooting free throws at a high percentage (16 for 19 last night) keeps us in games.
—And get this: The Cavs have won 9 of their past 15 games. And they've been incredibly fun to watch during that stretch, not just because of their "potential" either. They're playing engaged basketball right now.