CLEVELAND (Ohio) • Sure, the Chicago Bulls have mopped the floor with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season.
Then again, the National Basketball Association (NBA) champions missed three All-Stars and two or three starters in their last two losses to Chicago, including Saturday night's 117-99 defeat.
LeBron James, Kevin Love and J.R Smith were all out of the latest loss.
So when coach Tyronn Lue was asked if he saw a common denominator in his team's three losses to the Bulls in as many games this season, he said, "Yeah, players. Last home game, Kevin and Kyrie (Irving) didn't play, and then tonight, Kevin, Bron and J.R. didn't play. So I don't see anything there."
The Bulls beat Cleveland 106-94 on Jan 4 at Quicken Loans Arena and 111-105 on Dec 2 at United Centre.
Jimmy Butler had a triple-double and Dwyane Wade just missed one on Saturday for the Bulls, who have won four in a row.
Butler scored 18 points to go with 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Wade added 20 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds with a potential 10th board ripped out of his hands by a team-mate in the closing seconds.
After trailing by six early in the third quarter, the Bulls went on a 17-2 spurt and led by as many as 20 in the fourth.
"I think we just found our groove," said Wade, James' close friend.
Irving led all scorers with 34 points. He also finished with a season-high nine rebounds and seven assists. Kyle Korver and James Jones each scored 14 points off the bench for the Cavs.
Cleveland are 0-4 this season without James, who missed the game because of strep throat, and have lost their last seven games when he did not play. Dating to the start of the 2014 season, the Cavs are now 4-19 without him.
The Bulls had seven players score in double figures. Rajon Rondo was among them with 15 points off the bench. Fellow reserve Nikola Mirotic added 14 points and 10 boards.
"I give our guys credit for continuing to go out there and fight," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "If we continue to play with this type of unselfishness, we are going to be tough."