CHICAGO (AP) — Nikola Mirotic tied season highs with 28 points and six 3-pointers, Jimmy Butler scored 25, and the Chicago Bulls beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 99-93 on a night when LeBron James moved into seventh place on the NBA’s career scoring list.
James moved past Shaquille O’Neal, finishing with 26 points and giving him 28,599 for his career — three more than O’Neal. But the big night by the four-time MVP couldn’t prevent the Cavaliers from matching a season high with their third straight loss.
That dropped them a half-game behind Boston for the Eastern Conference lead and left them with a 6-10 record in March.
For Mirotic, it was his second straight game with 28 points and six 3s. He also had 10 rebounds, finishing a strong March. Rajon Rondo added 15 assists, Robin Lopez had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and the ninth-place Bulls moved within a game of Miami and Indiana in the Eastern Conference standings.
They also finished 4-0 against Cleveland to complete their first sweep of the Cavaliers since they took all three games during the 2011-12 season.
Kyrie Irving scored 20 for the Cavaliers, while Tristan Thompson added 15 points and nine rebounds.
James entered needing 23 points to tie O’Neal, and matched him when he scored on a layup with 7:23 left in the game. He took sole possession of seventh place when he hit one of three free throws to make it 90-83 with 4:28 remaining.
But it was not an easy night for the Cavaliers.
Kevin Love fouled out with eight points and 10 rebounds when he got whistled on a basket by Butler moments earlier.
Cavaliers: G Iman Shumpert was available after missing two games because of a sore right knee. … F Kyle Korver missed his second consecutive game because of a sore left foot. He has not been practicing and is expected to sit out Friday’s game against Philadelphia before being re-evaluated. … F Richard Jefferson sat out because of tendinitis in his left knee.
Bulls: F Cristiano Felicio was available after missing the previous three games because of a bruised lower back.
Cavaliers: Host Philadelphia on Friday to start a three-game homestand.
Bulls: Host Atlanta on Saturday.