Chicago Bulls’ Jimmy Butler (21) tries to poke the ball away from Cleveland Cavaliers’ Luol Deng in an NBA game Wednesday in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — D.J. Augustin scored 27 points in a start for Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson matched a career high with 26 filling in for Carlos Boozer as the Chicago Bulls improved to 7-2 since trading Luol Deng with a 98-87 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Augustin and Mike Dunleavy hit 3-pointers down the stretch to pace the Bulls, who at 21-20 moved over .500 for the first time since Nov. 22.
Deng went just 2 of 11 from the field in his first game against Chicago. The Bulls dealt the two-time All-Star forward to Cleveland on Jan. 6 for future draft picks.
Joakim Noah had 18 rebounds for the Bulls, who appeared to be looking toward the future when they traded Deng after losing superstar Derrick Rose to a season-ending injury.
Kyrie Irving scored 26 to lead Cleveland, which has dropped the first two games of a five-game homestand.
Although they were missing two starters in Boozer (calf) and Hinrich (hamstring), the Bulls had more than enough to hold off the Cavaliers.
Making just his fourth start, Gibson scored 12 in the third as the Bulls opened a 71-62 lead entering the fourth.
Dunleavy’s 3-pointer extended Chicago’s lead to 12 in the opening minute of the final quarter, but the Cavs fought back behind Dion Waiters and pulled to 84-81 on his 3. However, Dunleavy scored again, Noah made a layup and Augustin buried a 3-pointer to give the Bulls a 91-81 lead.
The Cavs were still within 93-87 in the final minute when Dunleavy knocked down another 3-pointer with 38 seconds left to seal Chicago’s win.
Dunleavy added 22 points for the Bulls, who got just four points from their bench.
Waiters had 15 for Cleveland.
Deng spent 10 seasons with the Bulls, and the 28-year-old said it would be challenging to his face his former teammates for the first time.
“It’s definitely going to be weird because it’s guys I’m really close with and it feels like just yesterday I was going to battle with them and now I’m going against them,” he said at the morning shootaround.
Deng hasn’t completely shaken the Bulls from his system. He has a phone app that gives him updates on Chicago’s games.
“I’ve been trying to change it, but I don’t know how. It’s really annoying when you get updates of the Bulls on your phone. I’m trying to change getting all these Joakim Noah double-double updates. I gotta get rid of that.”
Before the opening tip, Deng ran over to Chicago’s bench and hugged Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and shook hands with all of the team’s assistant coaches.
Outworked by a depleted Chicago team, the Cavs fell behind by 10 early in the second quarter and were down 35-29 when Irving heated up.
He made five consecutive 3-pointers in the final 5:45 of the second quarter to give the Cavs a 44-43 lead at halftime.
Irving made three 3s in a span of 1:24, the last shot from long range giving Cleveland a 38-35 lead. After Chicago scored to slow Irving down, he responded with another 3. And when Mike Dunleavy’s basket tied it at 41, Irving responded again with his fifth 3 of the second quarter.
NOTES: Deng spent nearly 20 minutes after the shootaround discussing his days in Chicago, which ended shortly after he rejected a three-year, $30 million contract extension, an offer and pay cut that he and his agents didn’t find adequate. Asked if he would consider returning to the Bulls as a free agent this summer, Deng took a swipe at Chicago’s front office. “Maybe they’ll offer me three years, $30 million,” he cracked. “That might be an option to take.” … Hinrich did not travel with the Bulls and could miss several games. … Noah has recorded at least 10 rebounds in 14 straight games, the longest stretch in franchise history since Dennis Rodman posted 43 straight in ‘97.