Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose, center, drives between Cleveland Cavaliers' Antawn Jamison, left, and Ramon Sessions (3) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 2, 2012, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Luol Deng scored a season-high 24 points and Derrick Rose added 19 as the Chicago Bulls won their fifth straight, 112-91 on Friday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were without rookie guard Kyrie Irving.
Up by 12 at halftime, Chicago built a 24-point lead in the third quarter and coasted to its 12th win in 14 games to stay on Miami's heels for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Carlos Boozer added 13 points and 11 rebounds as the Bulls won their seventh straight over Cleveland.
Irving has been fighting a flu bug for several days and missed his fourth game. The Cavs sorely missed their leading scorer and playmaker while dropping their fourth straight.
Antawn Jamison scored 22 for Cleveland, 0-3 since the All-Star break.
The Bulls had to work a little harder than they did on their last visit to Cleveland.
On Jan. 20, they beat the Cavaliers by 39 despite not having Rose, who was sidelined with a sore toe.
This time, Chicago didn't begin pulling away until midway through the third, when Rose turned his game up a notch and the Bulls followed their fearless leader.
Driving to the basket whenever he felt the need, Rose scored 10 points and added six assists in the third, when the Bulls scored 38 and ended any lingering suspense. The Cavs had no one to challenge Rose, who powered his way inside, drew body contact and converted a three-point play to make it 89-66.
Deng's 3-pointer with 11 seconds to go put the Bulls ahead 94-70, causing many Cleveland fans to grab their jackets and head toward the exits.
Rose, Boozer and fellow starters Joakim Noah and Richard Hamilton didn't even have to play in the fourth as Chicago's backups also controlled the Cavs.
Not feeling well, Irving stayed home from the morning shootaround. He arrived at Quicken Loans Arena several hours before tip-off and shot around on the floor before doctors decided to have him take the night off.
Cavs coach Byron Scott said the 19-year-old picked up "a bug" during All-Star weekend in Orlando "that finally caught up with him."
Irving's illness prevented him from matching skills with Rose for the second time. It's possible they won't face each other at all this season. Cleveland visits Chicago in the regular-season finale, but Rose will only play if that game has any impact on the playoff seedings.
Scott said he addressed the recent embarrassing blowout against the Bulls, who despite not having the league's reigning MVP, destroyed the Cavs 114-75 — the most lopsided loss in Cleveland history.
"Man up," he said.
The Cavs did for as long as they could.
Cleveland only trailed 30-28 after one quarter, but the Bulls began to show their weaponry in the second.
Kyle Korver made three consecutive 3-pointers to help Chicago open a 15-point lead. The Bulls only led 56-44 at half, and the Cavs must have felt they had a chance when they returned from the break.
Rose, though, had other plans.