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James, red-hot Cavaliers visit ice-cold Bulls
CHICAGO -- The Cleveland Cavaliers have won 11 straight games. The Chicago Bulls have dropped their last eight.
The Cavaliers have jelled their talent-heavy roster together while the young Bulls are inching closer to becoming completely healthy for the first time this season.
And while the Bulls (3-18) look to win for the first time since Nov. 17, they will have to deal with a confident Cleveland team that again relied on LeBron James to keep its winning streak intact.
James scored Cleveland's final 13 points in a 116-111 victory over Memphis on Saturday and the Cavaliers moved to within two victories of tying their franchise record for consecutive wins.
With his team rolling, coach Tyronn Lue said on Saturday that opponents are making strategic moves to try and slow Cleveland down. The Cavaliers will enter Monday's game against the Bulls as one of the NBA's top scoring teams at 111.4 points per game, paced by James, who finished with 34 points against Memphis.
And while James has plenty of talent around him, Lue said that opponents -- including the Grizzlies on Saturday -- "junked the game up" by using bigger players to defend Cleveland's smaller players in an attempt to throw the Cavaliers off their game.
"You can try anything when you're trying to win," Lue said on Saturday, according to Cleveland.com. "When you're trying to get a win, you just try different things."
The Bulls haven't had much luck this season, especially of late when Chicago came up short late in the fourth quarter in a pair of one-point losses to Denver and Sacramento. Against the Nuggets on Thursday night, the Bulls blew an 18-point lead in a loss before they returned home on Friday and couldn't execute late in a 107-106 loss to the Kings.
Chicago is expected to get Nikola Mirotic back this week after he has been out with facial fractures and a concussion sustained in a fight in practice with teammate Bobby Portis. Mirotic won't play Monday against the Cavaliers and the Bulls could also be without Portis, who missed Friday's game with an arm contusion. Guard Zach LaVine also remains out as he recovers from a torn ACL.
Although the Bulls have found ways to remain competitive as they heal up, they have struggled with dropping their heads when they face adversity. Coach Fred Hoiberg has attempted to keep his players' minds off the losing streak, especially this early in what is expected to be a multi-year rebuild.
"That's the thing we talk about all the time," Hoiberg said Friday. "It's not about looking at wins and losses. It's about taking steps in the right direction every day."
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, appear to be taking steps toward having veteran guard -- and former Bulls star -- Derrick Rose return to the team. Rose left the Cavaliers just before Thanksgiving to consider his future.
Published reports have indicated that Rose has grown weary of having to deal with injuries -- the latest of which forced him out of the lineup on Nov. 9 due to complications to an ankle sprain.
But Cavaliers officials said Saturday they have had positive communications with Rose and indicated it may just be a matter of time before Rose could return.
"Whenever he's ready to tell us or whatever, we're ready for that," James said, according to Cleveland.com. "You don't ever fast-track someone's process of what they may be going through. When they're ready to talk about it or ready to bring it to the forefront, as his teammates we'll be ready for it."
Updated December 3, 2017