Another game day is upon us with the Cleveland Cavaliers set to host the Chicago Bulls at the Q in around about 8 hours time! I am currently sitting at home awake at 2.26am Adelaide time writing this preview, talk about dedication right!
The other night we saw the new look Cavaliers for the first time as they disposed with the John Wall-less Washington Wizards 94-84. It was clear for everyone to see that the focus of the Cavs this season is they plan to defend, get up and down the floor and play high octane, up tempo basketball in order to capitalize on the strengths of the guys that they have built their team around.
Their opponents on the other hand, Chicago are very much the opposite and while they are still a strong defensive unit who play some of the best defense in the NBA, they are by no means a fast break team, especially without MVP point guard Derrick Rose. It is pretty safe to say that the Bulls will play a half court game rather than a run and gun style of the Cavs.
I had a chance to sit down and watch Chicago get their season off to a winning start against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night with a scoreline of 93-87. I pretty much only watched this because I knew the Bulls were next up on the Cavaliers schedule but nonetheless it was a good game to watch. Chicago showed just why they had the best record in the East last season despite not having Derrick Rose for most of it through their main team philosophy of rebounding and defense. What I want to talk about with the Bulls is definitely their rebounding ability, we all saw how easily Andy and Tristan beat up the Wizards on the glass, but it's safe to say the Bulls will be a much harder task.
The front court of Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah are going to really test the Cavs with their rebounding ability and inside presence. Boozer especially who last season didn't really look like the 20-10 guy most NBA fans have come to expect from him over his career. He has looked good in preseason and carried that form into the season opener finishing with 18 points and 8 rebounds. The former Cav was especially efficient on the offensive end of the floor shooting 8-13 from the field and will provide a big test to see how far Tristan Thompson has come in his development.
The Chicago bench doesn't pack the same punch it has in previous seasons with the second unit of Nate Robinson, Marco Bellineli, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson not really causing the Kings too much problems. The problems came from the ever improving Joakim Noah who filled the stat sheet with 23 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists and 3 blocks. Noah was everywhere all night long and was easily the player of the game on the night.
Onto the Cavaliers and how they are going to break down one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference despite the fact they are missing their superstar point guard. I believe it's the same old story for the Cavaliers, they must get out in the open court and run. The only way to do that is to be strong on the defensive end and rebound the basketball. However, don't expect Tristan and Andy to manhandle the likes of Noah, Boozer and Gibson on the glass as easily as they disposed of the Washington front court. It's going to be a very good gauge of how far the Cavaliers really have come taking on these Bulls, because last time these teams met Derrick Rose was once again missing through injury and it was a complete blow out in favour of Chicago.
CJ Miles and the bench need to improve on their output against the Wizards and up their game in order for the Cavaliers to be successful. There is quite amount of pressure riding on CJ's shoulders to carry the second unit's offense by making plays and getting open shots. Outside of Daniel Gibson's shooting, the second unit really didn't offer all that much against the Wizards and they will need to be much improved in their second outing of the season.
Alonzo Gee has the task of stopping arguably Chicago's best scorer in Luol Deng, he'll need to lock down defensively and try and upset Deng's scoring ability as well as keeping him off the glass where he had a field day against the Kings picking up 12 rebounds (5 offensive).
It's once again the question of where the scoring is going to come from for the Cavs, Kyrie Irving is going to continually be Kyrie Irving and dominate the offense and score at will for most of the season, but will we see the same sort of production we saw from Dion Waiters against the Wizards? Waiters will need to continue his good form from the other night where he looked very relaxed and comfortable in the offense, however we all know how inconsistent rookies can be, but it'll definitely interesting to see Dion out on the floor in an NBA atmosphere for the second time.
Finally, I've tried to steer clear of this throughout the entire article until now but the battle at the center position is going to be great to watch. Joakim Noah and Anderson Varejao are very similar players whom possess the ability of being able to draw charges, dominate the glass and grow as well as manage some pretty zany hair styles! But seriously the battle down low is going to be great to watch, Andy played one of the best games I've ever seen him play against the Wizards and he showed that if he is healthy, the Cavaliers are going to be a handful for most teams. Noah is much the same for the Bulls, he is a cult figure much like Andy is for Cavs fans and it's going to be really interesting to see them two go at it all night long and hopefully for our sake, Andy comes out on top.
Anyway it's going to be a real test for the Cavaliers to see how far they have come and I really hope they make a good game out of it and maybe sneak a win. Unfortunately my gut feeling is that the Bulls will be too strong and I'm predicting a 91-85 victory for Tom Thibodeau's ball club.
I look forward to waking up tomorrow to watch some more Cavs basketball in season 2012-13, boy is it good to have the NBA back!
All the way from Australia