LeBron James scored 25 points, grabbed nine rebounds and passed out nine assists Thursday to spark the Cleveland Cavaliers over Chicago 106-95, handing the Bulls their fifth consecutive loss.
Kyrie Irving added 19 points, while Tristan Thompson contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Love produced 15 points and 15 rebounds for the host Cavaliers (39-14).
Chicago beat Cleveland 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.
“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 win streak stretched to four games and their overall margin atop the Eastern Conference improved to 3 1/2 games over Toronto.
“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 playoff berths, only one half-game ahead of Detroit.
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James, who hit 11-of-19 shots from the floor, passed Moses Malone (9,435) for 19th on the all-time baskets list.
James jammed in a slam dunk off a lob pass from J.R. Smith for a 65-48 lead and celebrated by dancing with the crowd.
Bulls star Joakim Noah has expressed his annoyance with James dancing in the past, but Noah was out with an injury as was Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic.
Derrick Rose led Chicago with 28 points while Spain’s 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.
Australian Matthew Dellavedova scored seven points in 16 minutes for the Cavaliers after missing the past five games with a hamstring injury.
James was lamenting the loss of Brazilian center Anderson Varejao, his teammate for eight seasons with the Cavaliers who was traded to Portland on Thursday as part of a deal to obtain guard Channing Frye from Orlando.
“That’s the worst part of the business right there, when you lose a brother, a teammate,” James said.
In Los Angeles, San Antonio’s six-game winning streak came to an abrupt end as the Clippers romped to a 105-86 win at the Staples Center.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul went on a second half points spree — scoring 26 of his 28 points after the mid-game break while contributing 12 assists as the home side improved to 36-18.
Jamal Crawford had 19 points and J.J.Redick 17 points for the Clippers, while Tony Parker led the scoring for the Spurs with 14 points. San Antonio’s record slipped to 45-9 with the loss.
At Washington, Marcin Gortat had 22 points and 10 rebounds while John Wall added 17 points and 11 assists to power the host Wizards over Utah 103-89.
Brazil’s Nene and guard Bradley Beal each contributed 16 points for the Wizards, who scored 27 points off 23 Jazz turnovers in improving to 24-28.
Gordon Hayward led Utah with 19 points while Rodney Hood added 18 for the Jazz, 26-27, in a game postponed from last month because of a massive snowstorm that struck the US capital.
The Wizards are 2 1/2 games behind Charlotte for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth while the Jazz fell level with Houston for the last spot in the Western Conference.