CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Beating the Chicago Bulls at full strength is challenging enough for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Trying to do it without Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters made it nearly impossible.
Cleveland fell behind by 16 after the first quarter and trailed by as many as 18 en route to a 95-85 loss to Chicago Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “They’re playing as hard as they can right now. A lot of things aren’t going our way but besides that first quarter where we kind of let it get out of hand – couldn’t make a shot and get stops – after that we played pretty solid. That’s the problem right now with us.
“We’ve got to play damn near a perfect game on both ends of the floor.”
Forward Anderson Varejao recorded his 10th straight double-double – 1 shy of tying the franchise record – scoring 11 points to go with 15 rebounds but it wasn’t enough to dig the Cavaliers out of the early hole.
“I’m going to keep playing hard,” Varejao said. “I can’t control anything else. I just want to win. It’s a bad taste when you lose and I’m going to keep playing hard and if it happens, it happens.
“I don’t care, I just want the W’s.”
The Cavaliers, who have dropped 13 of 15, fell to 2-7 since Irving went down with a broken left index finger.
“It’s the NBA,”‘ Scott said. “We’re not the only team that’s going through having some guys that are hurt that you need out there, that you wish were out there. One thing that we’ve always been and always will be is a no excuse team. We’re going to play the guys that we have available and we’re not going to cry about the guys who aren’t here because when they come back hopefully they’ll supply us with the punch we need.
“Right now the guys we have out there are playing as hard as they can and that’s all you can ask from them.”
Bulls guard Marco Belinelli, who entered the game averaging 5 points per contest, scored 10 of his season-high 23 points in the first quarter as the Bulls ran out to a 27-11 lead after the first 12 minutes.
Scott hoped starting Daniel Gibson would help his club on both ends of the floor but Gibson was unable to contain Belinelli who shot 7 of 15 from the floor in his second straight start for injured shooting guard Richard Hamilton.
“When you play against them, you know they’re going to guard you,” Gibson said. “That’s where I want our guys to figure it out. I want [opponents] to say when they’re playing Cleveland, ‘Man those guys are going to play hard so we’ve got to be ready to play.’
“Right now, teams aren’t feeling that way about us right now.”
Luol Deng added 22 as all 5 of Chicago’s starters scored in double figures. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer combined to score 23 points and 27 rebounds in the win for the Bulls.
The Cavaliers closed the first half with an 8-0 run to slice Chicago’s lead to 10. Reserve guard Donald Sloan came off the bench in the 2nd to score 10 of his 14 points before the half for the wine and gold.
Rookie Tyler Zeller finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds in the loss.
“We thought we could [come back],” Zeller said. “We had it down to 10 and a couple of times under 10 and we thought we had a chance then but we just kind of ran out of gas at the end and just couldn’t make enough plays.”
The Cavaliers trimmed Chicago’s lead to 64-59 with 1:47 to play in the 3rd but got no closer as the Bulls ran off a 19-7 run to secure their 10th straight win over Cleveland.