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Bulls-Cavaliers Preview

Jan 23, 2016 - 5:48 AM Though Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin is no stranger to orchestrating midseason shakeups, no one saw this one coming.

Reportedly, not even LeBron James.

The Cavaliers will try to get over the shock of David Blatt's stunning firing when they take the court Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls, whose recent play on the court has created a bit of unrest as well.

Blatt was dismissed midway through a season in which Cleveland (30-11) holds a 3-game lead over Toronto atop the Eastern Conference and is 6 1/2 ahead of the second-place Bulls in the Central Division. Though the second-year coach went 64-20 after a 19-20 start last season and guided the Cavaliers to the 2015 NBA Finals, Griffin said he wasn't pleased with the team's direction or its atmosphere.

''Sometimes you can win games in the regular season and get worse,'' Griffin said during Friday's press conference announcing the move. ''We were regressing over a period of time. There's a lack of connectedness and spirit that I just couldn't accept. And frankly, halfway through the season, I think we have the time to right the ship."

Blatt's .732 winning percentage is the highest for a coach fired this late in a season. The New Jersey Nets let go of Larry Brown with a 47-29 record in 1981-82.

''I know that sounds crazy when we're sitting with a 30-11 record. I understand that," Griffin said. "But we were 30-11 with a schedule that was reasonably easy. And I'm judging a lot more than wins and losses.''

Associate coach Tyronn Lue was promoted into Blatt's position on a permanent basis, with the 38-year-old former NBA point guard becoming the league's youngest active head coach.

''He has the pulse of our team,'' said Griffin, who also reiterated that he did not seek any input from James nor any other player in making the decision.

The change takes place after the Cavaliers won two straight to bounce back from Monday's embarrassing 132-98 defeat to Golden State, the most lopsided home loss in James' career. They were sharp in Blatt's finale, hitting 13 of 28 attempts from 3-point range and outrebounding the Los Angeles Clippers 47-35 in Thursday's 115-102 victory over a team that won 11 of 12 coming in.

J.R. Smith, one of several acquisitions Griffin made last January to help spark Cleveland's turnaround, had 22 points and finished 6 of 7 from 3 after a 2 of-14-effort over the previous three games. Kevin Love posted a sixth double-double in his last seven with 18 points and 16 rebounds.

Lue will be in a potentially advantageous spot to start his head coaching career with the Cavaliers on the second of a four-game homestand and Chicago (22-18) struggling to make shots and prevent them. The Bulls have gone a woeful 20.5 percent on 3-pointers in losing three of four and are yielding 108.8 points over a 2-6 stretch.

After a 1-of-20 performance from beyond the arc in Wednesday's 125-94 home loss to Golden State, the Bulls were 3 of 13 in Friday's 110-101 defeat at Boston. They also committed 20 turnovers that led to 26 Celtics' points.

''It's about being on the same page when we're out there," guard Derrick Rose said. "All the hustle plays - it's effort. We're not getting the extra effort to be a championship team right now.''

Rose had 27 points Friday and is averaging 25.3 in his last three games. Jimmy Butler added 28 but is 0 of 12 from 3 over his last four, while Nikola Mirotic has shot just 17.1 percent while averaging 4.8 points over his past five.

Mirotic scored 19 points as Chicago edged Cleveland 97-95 in the Oct. 27 season opener. The Bulls are making their first visit to Cleveland since losing last year's East semifinals in six games.

  • CHICAGO: 96

    Jan 23 10:57 PM

  • End of 4th Quarter.

    Jan 23 10:57 PM
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    Bulls 86, Cavaliers 78  4th - 2:06Jan 23 10:49 PM

  • CHICAGO: 72
    End of 3rd

    Jan 23 10:19 PM

  • End of 3rd Quarter.

    Jan 23 10:19 PM

  • End of 1st Half.

    Jan 23 9:33 PM

  • CHICAGO: 44

    Jan 23 9:33 PM
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    Bulls 44, Cavaliers 39  HalfJan 23 9:33 PM
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    Bulls 41, Cavaliers 37  2nd - 1:34Jan 23 9:32 PM

  • CHICAGO: 21
    End of 1st

    Jan 23 9:05 PM

  • End of 1st Quarter.

    Jan 23 9:04 PM

  • Pau Gasol vs. Timofey Mozgov (Derrick Rose gains possession)

    Jan 23 8:42 PM

  • CHICAGO: 0
    1st Quarter - 12:00

    Jan 23 8:42 PM
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