CLEVELAND – They changed coaches. Everything else about the Cavaliers looked the same.
And as if they don’t have enough problems, new coach Tyronn Lue said they’re out of shape.
Lue didn’t make much of a difference in his coaching debut for Cleveland, as Pau Gasol scored 25 points to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 96-83 win over the Cavaliers on Saturday night.
Lue was promoted Friday, when the Cavaliers shockingly fired David Blatt despite him taking the team to the NBA Finals last season leading the team to the best record in the Eastern Conference so far this season. Lue admitted being nervous about sliding into Blatt’s seat, and while his team gave effort, the Cavaliers didn’t win.
In fact, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and their teammates left the floor to a chorus of boos after shooting just 9 of 22 from the free-throw line.
“I’ve been booed before, along with a lot of these guys,” Lue said. “Every time I go to Philly I get booed, so, you know, that’s not a big deal. It’s something I got to deal with.”
Lue wants his team to play at a faster pace than it did under Blatt, but the Cavs aren’t physically ready to up the tempo.
“I don’t think we’re in good enough shape,” Lue said. “Early, we wanted to push it, we wanted to open the floor and we came out and did that and then we just dropped off the map. We got tired. I just don’t think we’re in good enough shape right now to play in the style that we want to play.”
James just missed his first triple-double of the season, finishing with 26 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. J.R. Smith added 18 points for the Cavs, who shot 37 percent from the field.
“It’s a make or miss league and tonight we couldn’t make any shots,” James said.
Jimmy Butler scored 20 points, Nikola Mirotic added 17 and Taj Gibson 15 for Chicago, which opened a 17-point lead in the third quarter and never let the Cavs get closer than eight in the fourth.
“This was a big game,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s a great sign when you come into a place like this that was buzzing. We went out and we were aggressive. We got that lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back.”
Bothered by a lack of cohesion and chemistry, Cavs general manager David Griffin fired Blatt, a surprising move that came just days after Cleveland suffered a humiliating 34-point home loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors. But Griffin detected deeper issues and felt he had no choice but to remove Blatt and promote Lue, a top assistant and former point guard who won two NBA titles as a player.
Lue has work to do, but was mostly pleased with his team’s effort.
“I thought our guys competed,” he said. “I thought they went out and played hard and we just couldn’t make shots. I guess I consider this a big game and in a big game, we haven’t been able to make shots. Defensively it was great and just, offensively, we just didn’t make shots. We didn’t make free throws.”
Suns 98, Hawks 95
In Phoenix, Archie Goodwin hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 0.1 seconds left and the Suns beat Atlanta to end a six-game losing streak.
Goodwin led Phoenix with 24 points, and the Suns won for the second time in 17 games.
T-Wolves 106, Grizzlies 101
In Minneapolis, Shabazz Muhammad scored 25 points and the Timberwolves snapped Memphis’ four-game winning streak.
Ricky Rubio had 15 points, 12 assists and six rebounds and Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points for Minnesota, which beat a team with a winning record for the first time since Nov. 25. The Timberwolves improved to just 7-17 at home this season.
Nuggets 104, Pistons 101
In Denver, Danilo Gallinari scored 30 points, including the go-ahead jumper with 23.8 seconds remaining, and the Nuggets rallied to beat Detroit.
Emmanuel Mudiay added 18 points and Nikola Jokic scored 17 for Denver, which won its sixth in a row against the Pistons at home.
Kings 108, Pacers 97
In Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins had a career-high 48 points along with 13 rebounds to help the Kings beat Indiana for their season-high fifth straight win.
Trail Blazers 121, Lakers 103
In Portland, Damian Lillard had 36 points and the Trail Blazers beat Los Angeles in Kobe Bryant’s last game in Portland.
Hornets 97, Knicks 84
In Charlotte, Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker scored 26 points each and the Hornets beat New York for their third win in the last four games.
Pelicans 116, Bucks 99
In New Orleans, Ryan Anderson scored 23 points and tied a season-high with six 3-pointers, leading the hot-shooting Pelicans to a win over Milwaukee.
Jazz at Wizards — ppd.
Celtics at Sixers — ppd.