Bulls achieve timely victory against Cavaliers

Bestinau got that-

CLEVELAND — The Bulls know there is one absolute when it comes to executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas: Expect the unexpected.

He showed that on the trading deadline in 2021, and when he turned over most of the roster last summer.

Therefore, the motto of center Nikola Vucevic is ‘check what you can check’.

On Saturday, the Bulls retained control of the No. 5 in the Eastern Conference playoffs by fending off the Cavaliers 98-94. It proved no easy task, even as the Bulls led by 18 points at halftime and the Cavaliers appeared to be handcuffed for most of the night.

However, with 4:51 left in the game, they seemed to have lost that control. Cavaliers guard Darius Garland made an 18-footer to narrow the Bulls’ lead to three and forced coach Billy Donovan to call a timeout.

But there’s a reason the Bulls have played well against the Cavaliers this season, and they showed why from that timeout to the last horn. Their experience made the difference.

Vucevic made two free throws, DeMar DeRozan made a 3-foot jump, Zach LaVine made a basket and the Bulls came up with some well-timed stops and clutch free throws to improve to 43-31.

LaVine finished with 25 points, DeRozan with 20 and Vucevic with 16, and defensive shark Alex Caruso added 10 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals and was a plus-18.

“I thought we could really move the ball better,” Donovan said. “When they went for a run, we kind of balanced ourselves, figured out how to make plays. I thought a lot of good things came out of it from a competitive standpoint.”

Which brings us back to Karnisovas and what happened to the Bulls in March. How they finish the last eight games of the regular season and the playoffs could determine whether Karnisovas wants to bring this roster back next season.

Vucevic is well aware that his contract will expire after the 2022-23 season and knows that a disappointing end to this season could mean no one is safe this summer. He just doesn’t want to dwell on it.

“That’s something that we as players have absolutely no control over,” said Vucevic. “Our job is to get as far as possible, after which the front office makes the decision about the team to move forward. I was in a limited amount of trade rumors during my time in Orlando, so it’s something I don’t think much about. What’s the point of worrying about it if I can’t control it? That’s how I handle things like that.”

Moreover, as Vucevic sees it, he, LaVine and DeRozan have unfinished business.

“Of course I like it here,” said Vucevic. “It’s been really good for me since I’ve been here, in terms of the way the team accepted me. The players, coaches, front office, the fans, everything has been really good. The cold was an adjustment. † † † No, I’m kidding. It has been very good here.

“It takes time to build a team when you have so many new players and so many young players. I think we showed that we can play very well. I know we haven’t done that lately, but “That’s part of being a new team, growing together, going through ups and downs and trying to figure it out. Right now it’s not looking great because we’re losing. But in the NBA, things can change quickly.”

The victory on Saturday may be the start of that.

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