It was very odd seeing former Chicago Bulls‘ Luol Deng in a different uniform, but the Bulls got over that emotional state of seeing Deng once the game started and made quick work of the Cleveland Cavaliers, 98-87.
The Bulls surely miss Deng in a variety of ways. His leadership skills on and off the court and his all around play are what he brought to the table. However, the Bulls moved on from the trade of Deng and have won nine of their last 11 games. They have been playing very hard, which is not a surprise, and they have coach Tom Thibodeau, who has kept the team focused and prepared on this streak of games. He has not let them give up on the season, and they are playing some of their best basketball. This is why coach Thibs is one of the best coaches in the game.
The Bulls made it a top priority to ramp up the defense against Deng and the Cavs. They held Deng to just 2-for-11 from the field and he only scored 11 points. He did not have much of an impact on the game and the Bulls made sure of it. The rest of the Cavs did not do much better either. The Cavs only shot 37.5 percent from the field and when the Bulls play defense like this, they can hold any offensive attack in check.
The offense was on point as well. The Bulls were playing without Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich in the lineup because of injury, but that didn’t matter because they have guys that keep stepping up – Taj Gibson and DJ Augustin stepped in for the veterans and did not disappoint. Gibson tied his career-high in points with 26 points. Augustin continues to prove that he is a great investment, scoring 27 points and dished out seven assists. Joakim Noah is playing in such a zone right now and produced another monster game with nine points, 18 rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
After the game, Deng embraced his former teammates and coaches with hugs and handshakes. Deng is missing his time with the Bulls organization, because he knows how good the team is and will be. While it’s obvious how much Deng misses the team and the team misses him, both parties are going in different directions — the Bulls are contending for a top six spot in the Eastern Conference, while Deng and the Cavs are going downhill.