Third time lucky for CAVS

Cleveland Cavaliers centre Tristan Thompson blocking the shot of Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson during the third quarter at the Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs, chasing that elusive NBA crown, won 106-95 to extend their lead atop the Eastern Conferen
Cleveland Cavaliers centre Tristan Thompson blocking the shot of Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson during the third quarter at the Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs, chasing that elusive NBA crown, won 106-95 to extend their lead atop the Eastern Conference to 31/2 games over the Toronto Raptors.PHOTO: REUTERS

Title chasers subdue Bulls after losing past two meetings to extend winning run

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • LeBron James scored 25 points, grabbed nine rebounds and passed out nine assists, as the Cleveland Cavaliers capped an eventful National Basketball Association (NBA) trade deadline day with a 106-95 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Kyrie Irving added 19 points, while Tristan Thompson contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Love produced 15 points and 15 rebounds.

Chicago beat Cleveland (39-14) in two prior meetings this season, the first in the season opener and the other last month, just one day after Tyronn Lue replaced Dave Blatt as coach. But the Bulls fell to their fifth consecutive loss here.

"In the first two games we didn't match their intensity and got beat," James said. "Today, I think we answered the call."

Cleveland's winning streak stretched to four games and their overall margin atop the Eastern Conference improved to 31/2 games over Toronto (35-17).

"I thought our physicality won the game," Lue said. "I thought we were physical at every position."

At 27-26, the Bulls fell into a tie with Charlotte for the final two East play-off berths, only half a game ahead of Detroit.

Without the injured Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic. Derrick Rose led Chicago with 28 points while Pau Gasol added 14 points and nine rebounds.

"We've got to stay together through the good, the bad and the ugly - and it's the ugly right now," Rose said.

Cleveland opted not to stick with centre Anderson Varejao on Thursday, however, as they chase an elusive NBA title. The Brazilian was traded to Portland as part of a three-team deal to obtain guard and three-point sharpshooter Channing Frye from the Orlando Magic.

Varejao had spent his entire 12-year NBA career with Cleveland, and Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said it was difficult to send him away.

"We have a deep obligation to do whatever we can to reach our ultimate goal and we believe this was a deal that improves our team now and positions us better for the future as well," he said.

Frye, joining his fifth team in 10 seasons, has averaged 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds on 43.5 per cent shooting from the floor. He is also hitting 39.7 per cent from three-point range.

Most title contenders stood firm but the Cavaliers, who lost to Golden State in last year's NBA Finals, and the Los Angeles Clippers (36-18) tweaked their line-ups in hopes of finding the combination to dethrone the Warriors (48-4).

The Clippers landed 2.06m-tall Jeff Green from Memphis along with a first-round draft pick in exchange for forward Lance Stephenson. Green will be reunited with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, for whom he played in Boston. Green averaged 12.6 points in 98 games for the Grizzlies after being traded by the Celtics in January of 2014.

"I really wanted more length," Rivers said. "When you look at the teams we have to beat, we need to get longer, more athletic and we need to increase our shooting. And I think with Jeff we did all three of those things."

The Clippers entered Thursday's game against the San Antonio Spurs (45-9) with a 0-4 record against Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma (40-14) - the three teams ahead of them in the West.

But they came out with one of their best wins of the season, never trailing en route to a 105-86 victory.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2016, with the headline 'Third time lucky for CAVS'. Print Edition | Subscribe