The Bulls are 1-0 when they start D.J. Augustin, Tony Snell, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.
And, yes, that’s a light-hearted approach to their dominant 100-84 victory over the Cavaliers Saturday night at the United Center.
In a misery-filled and injury-plagued stretch that had featured 13 losses in 16 games, the Bulls not only avoided their first five-game home losing streak since March 2010, they experienced the rare laugher while doing so.
With Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich joining Derrick Rose as out, the Bulls unveiled their 13th starting lineup in just their 26th game. This one clicked immediately, finishing with 27 assists and season-high 53.6 percent shooting as the Bulls hit the century mark for the first time since beating the Heat on Dec. 5.
Given that the Bulls had failed to crack 40 percent shooting in six of their last eight games, only Benny the Bull might have expected this offensive outburst that included 10 3-pointers and season-best 66.7 percent shooting from long range.
“I loved us offensively,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The ball movement was sharp and quick, with high-percentage shots and guys sharing the ball.”
Augustin played all but the final 96 seconds, finishing with 18 points, 10 assists and five rebounds. That included an unexpected, 10-minute-plus, first-half stretch pairing Augustin with Marquis Teague.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Augustin experienced cramping in his right hamstring from his heavy minutes as he walked off for a timeout. Remember, he had fallen out of the Raptors’ rotation completely. But he slammed an energy drink and played through it.
He’s running with this opportunity.
“That’s what the NBA is about,” Augustin said. “You never know what can happen. You have to take advantage of the opportunities. I love it here. I just let the game come to me. I tried to push it and find my teammates and open things up for myself. I’m feeling very comfortable.”
The entire starting five and reserve Taj Gibson all hit double figures for the Bulls.
Topped by Carlos Boozer’s 19 points, Chicago led by as many as 19. Joakim Noah added his ninth double-double with 11 points and a season-high-tying 18 rebounds.
“We’ve been going through a lot,” Noah said. “To win with so many guys out is special.”
Andrew Bynum’s 19 points led the Cavaliers, who played without Dion Waiters. Kyrie Irving scored 14 points, but missed 11 of 16 shots.
Tony Snell knocked down five 3-pointers as part of his 17 points. Of more importance, his play, which also featured five rebounds and three assists, proved indicative of the Bulls’ turnaround.
After a forced-shot-fest in Oklahoma City, Thibodeau talked to Snell about getting back to his strengths – playing with poise and within himself. One game later, Snell displayed a lesson learned.
“I love 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.”
And it came in the Bulls’ best game in weeks.
Bulls 100, Cavaliers 84
Star of the game: D.J. Augustin, Bulls, 18 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds
Up next: Bulls at Nets, 11 a.m. Wednesday
TV/Radio: ESPN/1000 AM