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LeBron James powers through injury, Cavaliers top Bulls
Just less than eight minutes remained in the second quarter of the Bulls' 107-93 loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday night when Ben Gordon fired a pass out of bounds that had been intended for Andres Nocioni.
As the ball rattled off the scorer's table, Gordon gestured for Nocioni to flare out farther on the wing. Nocioni then fired some tape at the same scorer's table.
Welcome to the Bulls' offense, where confusion and frustration reign. Wouldn't having LeBron James and his season-high 41 points, nine rebounds and six assists be nice?
Instead, the Bulls featured 39.2 percent shooting and, in Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha, two-fifths of the starting lineup combining for one point.
Are changes coming?
"It's something we'll look at, but I'm not at that stage yet," coach Vinny Del Negro said.
"We'll make a decision. But it's not one or two guys. We have to move the basketball and play unselfish."
That certainly wasn't the case down the stretch. Trailing 90-83 with just more than five minutes remaining, Drew Gooden attempted a low-percentage shot deep from the baseline that drew nothing but air.
On the ensuing possession, James corraled a loose ball near half-court and bore down on former teammate Gooden like a linebacker on a blitz. James ascended, drew contact and powered home the layup for a three-point play and 10-point lead.
James then scored two more baskets — a post-up over Derrick Rose and a tip-in of his own miss — sandwiched around two more questionable outside shots by Rose and Luol Deng.
At least Deng, whom the Bulls posted up on the first possession in an attempt to get him going, broke out of his shooting slump with 18 points on 7-for-15 shooting.
"I still don't feel I'm playing how I want to play," said Deng, who was appreciative for his two post-up opportunities. "I just had the mind-set that I was going to shoot more jumpers."
Then again, Deng's points were more than offset in his matchup with James, who shook off tweaking his ankle near the end of the first quarter to dominate.
Gordon led the Bulls with 31 points off the bench, but fellow backcourt reserve Kirk Hinrich struggled, scoring just two points and missing all five of his shots.
If it's not Deng struggling, it's Hinrich. That's how widespread the Bulls' offensive struggles have become.
"Starters have to get off to a good start; that's their responsibility," Gordon said. "They have to step it up. Maybe coach needs to mix something up a little bit; I don't know.
"The system is different. Everybody is still feeling his way in it. I think it's more mental focus, really. We're not totally engaged like we need to be. We're doing things out of character, turning the ball over unforced. The guys who have been here, we shouldn't be making those mistakes."
Added Deng: "We have to find sets that we're productive from and try to give teams different looks.
"We stayed with similar sets, especially in the fourth quarter. We have to switch it up a little bit."