A disgusted Tom Thibodeau called timeout just over a minute into the third quarter and appeared to send angry words in the direction of Luol Deng as the players walked toward the bench.
Deng said something back, but a teammate gave him a pat, as if to say, “Let it go. Don’t get him any more fired up.”
Did we mention, the Bulls led by 24 points at the time?
Whatever it was that got Thibodeau upset, it was inconsequential. The Bulls put on a Cleveland clinic from start to finish Friday night, crushing the host Cavs 115-86.
They started the game by hitting 11 of their first 14 shots and were never threatened. This was a clear case of the Bulls’ veteran lineup taking the Cavaliers’ kids to school. Smart, unselfish teams pile up 34 assists, as the Bulls did at Quicken Loans Arena.
Thibodeau had plenty of complaints, though, when he spoke to reporters after the contest.
“There’s still things we can do better,” he said. “We have to clean up the turnovers and in the fourth quarter, the defense wasn’t what it should have been. We can never lose sight of how hard we have to play to be successful.”
Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton led the Bulls with 19 points each and combined to hit 15 of 23 shots from the field. Hamilton knocked down 7 shots in a row during the third quarter.
Nate Robinson stepped in when Kirk Hinrich got in foul trouble to produce 16 points and 12 assists. Other than rookie Marquis Teague, everyone on the roster scored, including rarely-used Vladimir Radmanovic, who drained a 3-pointer in the final minutes.
As long as the starters stay healthy, the Bulls should find plenty of success while Derrick Rose recovers from knee surgery. The NBA did its part by giving the Bulls a friendly opening schedule.
The Bulls will now play five straight home games before embarking on the annual circus road trip. With New Orleans and Orlando coming next, a 4-0 start seems realistic. The rest of the homestand features Oklahoma City, Minnesota and Boston.
Thibodeau had an interesting response when asked if the Bulls brought the proper intensity at the start of Friday’s game.
“When you look at intensity, you have to understand where it comes from,” he said. “It comes from your concentration, being prepared and your effort. When you put those three things together, you’ll be intense.
“It doesn’t come from emotion. If we put the work in and we do the right things and we’re ready to go, we’ll be intense.”
One highlight of Saturday’s game at the United Center is supposed to be the return of New Orleans power forward Anthony Davis, a Chicago native and No. 1 pick of the NBA draft.
Davis took an elbow to the head, however, on Friday against Utah. He sat out the second half and his status for the Bulls game is unknown.
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