Dion Waiters scored 25 points to help make up for the absence of Kyrie Irving, and the Cleveland Cavaliers snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Chicago Bulls with a 101-98 victory on Tuesday night.
While Irving rested a sore right knee in street clothes on the sideline, Waiters converted a fadeaway jumper and a layup before Tyler Zeller drove along the baseline for a layup that helped Cleveland open an 87-78 lead with 7:33 left in the game.
The Bulls were down two when they got the ball back with 37.8 seconds left, but Luol Deng missed a long jumper and Shaun Livingston hit two free throws for Cleveland to make it 100-96. Luke Walton then forced a turnover to get the ball back for the Cavs.
Livingston, starting in place of Irving, finished with 15 points as improving Cleveland held on for its third win in the last four games, bouncing back from a difficult 109-105 loss at Miami on Sunday.
Carlos Boozer scored 27 points and Deng had 26 for Chicago, which has dropped five of seven. Kirk Hinrich returned to the lineup after missing three consecutive games with a lingering right elbow issue and finished with 11 points, 11 assists and six rebounds.
The Bulls played their first game of the season without reserve forward Taj Gibson, who sprained his left knee when he stepped on the foot of Oklahoma City guard Reggie Jackson in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 102-72 loss to the Thunder. Gibson is expected to miss at least two weeks in another devastating injury for Chicago.
Derrick Rose has missed the entire season while he recovers from major left knee surgery, and Hinrich also has missed a bunch of games due to a myriad of injuries.
Wayne Ellington had 13 points for the Cavaliers, who open a five-game homestand against Toronto on Wednesday. Alonzo Gee finished with 11 points and Tristan Thompson added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Chicago and Cleveland handed the lead back and forth for much of the third quarter. Three consecutive charging calls on the Bulls helped the Cavaliers open a 72-67 advantage on Walton’s long jumper with two minutes left in the period, but Joakim Noah found Deng inside to help Chicago get within one.
The Bulls had a chance to go in front in the final seconds of the third, but Marco Belinelli’s 3-point attempt was blocked by Livingston and Ellington hit a 3 as time expired to lift Cleveland to a 75-71 lead.
Rose and Irving have never faced each other in an NBA game. “Well, I think we’re all looking forward to that,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “My greatest hope is that No. 1 that Derrick Rose comes back and he’s back to being the old Derrick Rose.”