Enhanced Box Score: Bulls 132, Cavaliers 123 (2 OT) – February 28, 2024

While walking my dog Winnie, I got the notification that Alex Caruso would sit out of tonight’s game. A shiver was sent down my spine.

Sure, half of that may have been the fact that it dropped nearly 40 degrees in a span of 24 hours. But the other half was undoubtedly the fear of Chicago playing the second-best team in the Eastern Conference without its best defender. Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland make up one of the most dynamic backcourt duos in the league. To know the Bulls wouldn’t have Caruso’s elite POA defense on the floor was terrifying.

The beginning of the game only justified that fear. The Cavs were in control early and did it by penetrating the paint. We saw the team go right at the Bulls’ double-big lineup with Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond, scoring 10 of their first 13 points in the paint. Meanwhile, the Bulls opened the game shooting just 8-20 in what felt like a frustrating continuation of last night’s ghastly display.

But then Onuralp Bitim showed he is the next overseas sensation.

Fine, I’m kidding. But head coach Billy Donovan did shockingly turn to the rookie midway through the second quarter. Bitim played a sizable role in flipping the momentum, even splashing the 3-pointer to cut the Cavaliers’ lead down to just one possession (it was also Bitim’s first official NBA bucket). The Bulls also did a much better job crashing the offensive glass and inviting physicality. They finished the first half with 17 offensive rebounds, dominating a department Cleveland has typically controlled in the past.

The Bulls’ surge of energy would send them into the locker room down just 53-52. While they weren’t able to finish the quarter with the advantage, we did see them grab the lead briefly. Bitim splashed another 3 after entering for a second stint, while Julian Phillips would complete a tough and-one layup to give the Bulls’ their biggest lead of the night at 72-68. The Cavs didn’t need long to reclaim things, however, rattling off a 13-6 run to enter the fourth quarter up a few.

The Bulls were then in a prime position to do what they do best – blow another clutch game. Fast forward to 5 minutes left, and they found themselves down 97-92. They would get back-to-back 3-pointers from Coby White and Nikola Vucevic (which felt like a godsend after last night) to help spark an 11-6 run to tie things up and force free basketball. This meant the Bulls would appear in their ninth OT game of the season, which leads the league.

Nikola Vucevic picked up his 5th foul early in the period. The Cavs were then clearly trying to switch onto the big man to get him out the game, and they accomplished just that with 44.2 seconds remaining. Donovan Mitchell proceeded to knock down a huge layup to put the Cavs up 114-110. After DeRozan countered with his own score at the rim, Mitchell would force his way to the free throw line with a chance to potentially ice things. Instead, he only knocked down one of the two freebies and left the door open for one of the finest closers in basketball. Right on cue, DeRozan baited Jarrett Allen into a shooting foul behind the arc to go the free throw line for three shots. He’d tie the game and send us to 2OT.

If leading the league in minutes this season prepared DeRozan for anything, it was this kind of game. While everyone looked exhausted, DeRozan would go on to score 11 points in the second OT period to ultimately ice the game for Chicago at 132-123. The 34-year-old ended with 35 points and 10 rebounds in an absurd 49 minutes of action.

Although, the craziest number of all in this game wasn’t even the minutes played. The Bulls outrebounded the Cavaliers a staggering 74 to 39. Andre Drummond finished with 26 rebounds, while Vucevic added 13. That’s right, the two big men single-handedly matched the entire Cavs team in rebounds. So how the heck did this gave even end up in double-OT? Because we’re talking about the freakin’ Chicago Bulls folks! Why play a normal game when you can play a competitive game!

Check out the full box score here.

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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