CLEVELAND--It was a case of too little, too late.
The depleted Cavaliers roster started fast with a 15-2 lead to start the game, but were outscored from that start to end of the third quarter, 81-59 and dropped a 106-94 decision to the Chicago Bulls in front of a sold out crowd at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs drop to 26-8, while the Bulls even their record at 18-18.
The Cavs got behind as much as 17 points late in the third quarter and were able to battle back to cut the deficit to five points with 9:43 to play in the fourth quarter when Kay Felder hit a lay up and and Iman Shumpert followed with a steal and layup to make it 86-82. Felder hit another jumper and cut the lead to 86-84. James hit a lay up with 6:42 to make it 89-88 before Jimmy Butler hit a trey to push the Bulls lead back to 92-88.
That was as close as the Cavs would get the rest of the way.
The Cavs were missing three of the players who were projected as starters to open the season in Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith. James played despite being a game-time decision with flu-like symptoms and scored 31 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists in 38 minutes. Jordan McRae had 21 points, while Channing Frye added 15 points.
Jimmy Butler led six Bulls in double figures with 20 points.
Streak Slowed: The Cavs had won 13 of their last 15 games and 9 in a row at Quicken Loans Arena before the loss. They also had the best home record in the NBA at 18-2, falling now to 18-3. The 26-7 record was the best record through 33 games since the 2008-09 season when when the Cavs were 27-6.
The King: Despite being a game-time decision, LeBron James played 20:03 in the first half and scored 14 points with five assists and four rebounds. He finished with 31 points, 7 assists and 8 rebounds in 37 minutes. James passed Danny Ferry for the second most games played in Cavs history at 724.
Sitting Out: Kyrie Irving missed his third-straight game with a hamstring injury, but Tyronn Lue said he might play Friday against the Nets. Kevin Love missed the game, still dealing with the effects of a bout with food poisoning. DeAndre Liggins started in place of Irving. The Cavs had 10 players suited up with Love, Irving, J.R. Smith (thumb), Chris Andersen (knee) and Mo Williams (retired) not playing.
For Starters: LeBron James, Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye, DeAndre Liggins and Jordan McRae started for the Cavs.
Shoot the 3: The Cavs hit just 8-of-25 for 32 percent from three-point range. In the win over the Pelicans, the Cavs made just 6-of-31 from three-point land for just 19 percent. Channing Frye had three triples.
Big Mac: Jordan McRae scored 21 points filling in for Kyrie Irving on 7-of-15 shooting.
Frye Day: Channing Frye started in place of Love and scored 10 points in the first half on 4-of-6 shooting, including two three-point shots made. He scored 15 points in the game and was 3-of-6 from three point range.
Big Dun: Mike Dunleavy did not play against his former team. He was the only healthy player that did not play.
The Butler: Jimmy Butler, who scored 52 points in his last game, had just three points at halftime and finished with 20.
Everything Begins with Kay: Rookie Kay Felder had scored at least 10 points in four-straight games, but finished with nine to snap his streak.
Iron Man: Tristan Thompson played in his 404th-straight game for the Cavs. He scored two points and had 11 rebounds.
Hit the Road: The Cavs will hit the road for a six-game road trip over the next 13 days.
Next Up: The Cavs will play the Brooklyn Nets on Friday at 7:30 pm before heading to Phoenix to play the Suns on Jan. 8 at 8:30 pm.