CLEVELAND — Tyronn Lue didn’t make much of a difference in his coaching debut for Cleveland as Pau Gasol scored 25 points, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 96-83 win over the Cavaliers on Saturday night.
Lue was promoted Friday, when the Cavaliers fired David Blatt despite him taking the team to the NBA Finals last season and currently leading the Eastern Conference. The coaching swap didn’t have any immediate impact on the Bulls, who outhustled the Cavs to loose balls and won for just the third time in nine games.
Jimmy Butler scored 20 points, Nikola Mirotic added 17 and Taj Gibson 15 for Chicago, which opened a 17-point lead in the third quarter and never let the Cavs get closer than eight in the fourth.
LeBron James just missed his first triple-double this season, finishing with 26 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. J.R. Smith added 18 points for the Cavs, who shot 37 percent from the field and were only 9 for 22 from the three-throw line.
When the final horn sounded, the Cavs were booed by their own fans, not the sound Cleveland’s front-office was hoping to hear.
Bothered by a lack of cohesion and chemistry in the Cavs, general manager David Griffin fired Blatt, a surprising move that came just days after Cleveland suffered a humiliating 34-point home loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors. But Griffin detected deeper issues and felt he had no choice but to remove Blatt and promote Lue, a top assistant and former point guard who won two NBA titles as a player.
Lue’s got work to do.
Earlier in the day, Blatt, who went 83-40 in two seasons, came to Quicken Loans Arena while a minor league hockey game was being played, packed up belongings in his office and left — his NBA future unknown.
Lue said his early focus would be on his team’s “spirit.” He believes the Cavs aren’t having as much fun as they should be and is intent on improving their attitude.
“You can’t be mad when you win and you can’t be mad when you lose,” he said.
That’s good place for him to start because the Cavs again looked uninspired and not like title contenders.
James arrived at Quicken Loans Arena earlier than usual and spent nearly 40 minutes on the floor before the game getting in some extra work with assistant coach Phil Handy.
The four-time MVP scored 26 seconds into the game, but then he and the Cavs went cold, missing 16 straight shots as the Bulls run off 13 straight points to end the first quarter.
The scoring drought foreshadowed a rough night for the Cavs, who at one point were 2 of 12 on free throws.
Bulls: F E’Twaun Moore injured his right hamstring in the first quarter and did not return. ... Gibson wore goggles after suffering a scratched cornea during Friday night’s loss in Boston. He added eight rebounds. ... Coach Fred Hoiberg was sorry to learn of Blatt’s firing. He met him in 2014 while on a recruiting visit for Iowa State. “I think the world of David Blatt as a person,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a hell of a basketball coach. It’s a tough part of this business when something like that happens. They’ve won 11 of 13 and their two losses are Golden State and San Antonio. That’s tough.”
Cavaliers: Smith played in his 800th career game. ... G Mo Williams, who found himself on the outside of Blatt’s rotations, was on the floor in the first quarter but didn’t play again. He sat out 10 of Cleveland’s previous 13 games. ... James has 39 career triple-doubles.
Bulls: Host Miami on Monday.
Cavaliers: Host Minnesota on Monday.