4 takeaways from a Chicago Bulls’ 109-95 loss — losing the offensive boards and a high-scoring game from Cleveland’s Max Strus

After weeks of an upward trajectory, the Chicago Bulls stumbled on a low-energy night as they dropped a 109-95 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.

The Cavaliers were missing the majority of their starters due to injury, but the size of their secondary rotation was enough to disrupt the Bulls and snap a three-game win streak. Despite the loss, the Bulls still sit 10th overall in the Eastern Conference — a small but important step up in the standings.

Here are four takeaways from the game:

After weeks of playing a high-tempo, high-assist style, the Bulls got stuck in a stymied offense against the Cavaliers. The ball moved more slowly as players like Coby White struggled to find their shot from behind the arc.

The Bulls went 8-for-35 (22.9%) from 3-point range. White went 0-for-8 in his first game without a 3-pointer since Nov. 17.

“I hate to say it, but it’s just one of those games,” DeMar DeRozan said. “It felt like we had the right intent in our mind but it just wasn’t coming out with the output that we needed to be. We found ourselves fighting uphill throughout the whole game. We made a couple of pushes here and there but give them credit, they played extremely well, played extremely hard, moved the ball, had us all over the place.

“It’s just one of those tough games for us.”

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Craig Porter shoots against Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso at the United Center on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023.

The Bulls gave up the bulk of their defensive miscues on the boards, allowing the Cavaliers to score 30 second-chance points off 15 offensive rebounds. Despite missing key starters, the size of the Cavaliers backcourt posed a challenge.

Jarrett Allen grabbed eight offensive boards and Tristan Thompson snagged four. The Bulls attempted to counter the size of the Cavaliers by utilizing their own jumbo lineup, playing centers Nikola Vučević and Andre Drummond at the same time. But that didn’t help the team to clean up longer deflecting rebounds, which were scooped up by an array of Cavaliers guards for secondary opportunities.

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“I felt like we were stuck slow tonight,” coach Billy Donovan said. “We got hurt on the glass. We never really were able to get out in transition. They didn’t necessarily shoot it great from 3 themselves, but the times they got it back or got fouled, it just kind of slowed us down and put us in the half court quite a bit.”

Despite trailing by 17 points in the fourth quarter, the Bulls nearly completed an attempt at a comeback — led dependably by DeMar DeRozan, who thrives in the final frame of any game.

In exactly two minutes and 30 seconds midway through the fourth quarter, the Bulls cut a 17-point lead down to 10 points. An ensuing 3-pointer from Patrick Williams cut the lead to five points with seven minutes and 10 seconds remaining.

But the Bulls couldn’t continue that short streak of fluid offense. The Cavaliers responded with an eight-point run that stamped out the final push from the Bulls, who could not cut the lead to single digits again. DeRozan scored 10 of the team’s 23 points in the fourth quarter.

Cleveland's Max Strus dunks against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023.

The Cavaliers were short-handed for the matchup due to injury, missing Darius Garland (jaw fracture), Caris LeVert (left knee), Donovan Mitchell (illness), Evan Mobley (left knee), Ty Jerome (right ankle) and Sam Merrill (right wrist).

With their typical lineup disrupted, the Cavaliers settled into a game plan of taking a high volume of 3-pointers, launching 27 attempts in the first half and 45 total. Former DePaul star and Hickory Hills native Max Strus led that flurry from 3-point range.

Strus slung shots from behind the arc throughout the night and crushed a poster dunk over Vučević in the third quarter. He finished with 24 points and went 5-for-17 from behind the arc.