Chicago Bulls put up a good fight, but win streak ends in Cleveland
The streak is over, but the Chicago Bulls earned some style points while suffering their first loss since Nikola Mirotic returned from injury.
The Bulls took Cleveland to the wire, finally losing 115-112 when Denzel Valentine's fallaway 3-pointer fell short at the buzzer. The unlikeliest of winning streaks ended at seven.
The Bulls were the first team in NBA history to lose 10 straight, then immediately launch a winning streak of at least five games.
Rookie Lauri Markkanen had one of his best games of the season, finishing with a team-high 25 points and several athletic drives to the basket. At one point, Markkanen stole a pass by LeBron James and hustled down the court for a one-hand, fastbreak dunk.
Valentine also delivered one of his better performances, producing 18 points while hitting 4 of 7 shots from 3-point range. On the final possession, Valentine didn't get a great look and the Bulls might have been better off with the taller Markkanen or Mirotic taking the final shot, but chalk that up as another learning experience.
"Unfortunately we didn't get a better look," coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters after the game. "We lost that game in the beginning of the fourth, but I give our guys credit for fighting back."
The Bulls kept pace with the Cavaliers, who are 19-2 in their last 21 games, most of the night.
At the start of the fourth quarter, though, Cleveland scored the first 7 points to open an 89-79 lead. The Bulls got caught up in trying to do too much, instead of moving the ball to find a good shot, and coughed up turnovers on three straight possessions.
Still, the visitors showed some mental toughness to come right back with a 13-2 run, taking the lead on Justin Holiday's steal and dunk.
Most teams have trouble trying to keep James from bulling his way to the basket, and the Bulls were no exception. James finished with 34 points and kept the Cavs in front down the stretch.
A 4-point play by Markkanen brought the Bulls within 109-106 with 2:12 left. On the other end of the floor, the Bulls forced two Cleveland misses but couldn't grab the rebound. On the third chance, Kevin Love (27 points) was fouled and hit 2 free throws.
In the final minute, a Mirotic 3-pointer and a Valentine drive brought the Bulls within 1 with 14.3 seconds remaining. James knocked down 2 free throws, setting up the Bulls' final miss.
Kris Dunn piled up 14 assists, to go with 10 points. Mirotic scored 15 and Robin Lopez 14 for the Bulls (10-21).
In the ex-Bull category, Dwyane Wade scored 10 points, Kyle Korver 15 and Derrick Rose is still recovering from an ankle injury. Guard Isaiah Thomas, who has yet to play this season due to a hip injury, dressed and went through pregame warmups with the Cavs for the first time.
Shooting guard J.R. Smith was a late scratch with a sore knee, while Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue missed the game with an illness.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls.