Augustin, Snell lead Bulls in rout of Cavaliers
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter December 21, 2013 9:26PM
Updated: December 21, 2013 11:27PM
It hasn’t been pretty.
Coach Tom Thibodeau is the first to admit it.
But he also believes there’s something special about the makeup of his team. With Derrick Rose lost for the season and injuries piling up, Thibodeau refused to blink despite a 3-13 record in 16 games heading into Saturday.
For one night, his players proved him right, beating the Cavaliers 100-84 at the United Center to snap a four-game skid.
“The hard thing was, I think we were in a stretch of seven in 10 days, along with the lineups [changing],’’ Thibodeau said. “So trying to get [newly acquired] D.J. [Augustin] up to speed, we didn’t have good rhythm, but each day you could see it getting better. And it’s hard to do when you’re practicing in a ballroom and stuff like that, but those sometimes are the circumstances, and you have to find a way to get it done.
“I just liked that I saw there wasn’t any quit in these guys. As we get bodies back, D.J. gets comfortable . . . I said all along, I have great belief in this team.’’
A belief made easier when playing the Cavaliers.
A win is a win for the Bulls (10-16) at this point, but it’s almost fool’s gold with the Cavaliers. The Bulls are 13-2 against their division rivals over the last 15 meetings, so no matter how well Cleveland seems to be playing at the time or how much of a hole the Bulls are in, the Cavs usually crumble.
The three was the key this time. The Bulls made 10 of 15, the Cavs only 4 of 18. Rookie Tony Snell led the Bulls, making 5 of 8.
“I loved the way Tony played,’’ Thibodeau said. “He didn’t force anything. He shot when he was open; he passed when he was guarded. He competed defensively. That probably was his best game as a pro.’’
A few weeks ago, Thibodeau said Snell was forcing his shot.
“I was up and down for a little bit, but that’s what the coach is for, to correct me when I’m making mistakes out there and make sure I’m on the right page,’’ Snell said.
Six games into his Bulls career, Augustin played 46 minutes, scored 18 points, had 10 assists and grabbed five rebounds.
“I feel pretty comfortable,’’ Augustin said. “I’m going extra to get the plays down, and once you know the plays, know the system, everything else comes to you. So I’m feeling pretty comfortable. They’re embracing me, so I love it here.’’
Not only did Augustin carry the offensive load with Kirk Hinrich (back) sidelined again, but he also held Kyrie Irving to 5-for-16 shooting and 14 points.
Maybe that’s why Joakim Noah had a smirk on his face after the game.
Without Hinrich, Luol Deng (left Achilles tendon) and Jimmy Butler (right ankle), he and his teammates had one of their better performances of the month.
“Great team win,’’ Noah said. “We’ve been going through a lot as a team, and to win with so many guys out, it’s special.
“Nobody is putting their head down; no one is giving up. Everyone is fighting every night, and that’s encouraging.’’