The Chicago Bulls had been playing great basketball. Just a few weeks ago they were 6th in the East and closing fast. Then the unthinkable happened - injuries decimated arguable their three best players. The result - a 9 game losing streak which has propelled them all the way out of the playoff picture.
It doesn't get any easier tonight. Derrick Rose (wrist), Luol Deng (calf) and Joakim Noah (foot) will all miss the game against the Cavaliers at the United Center. For the Bulls, it means a starting lineup that consists of Jannero Pargo and James Johnson at the 2 and 3 spots. Not a winning combination.
That doesn't mean it will be easy for the Cavaliers, who have grown into the habit of of taking large portions of the first 3 quarters off against lackluster opponents before flipping a switch. In two games against Dallas during the losing streak, the Bulls scored 116 and 106 points, forcing the Mavericks to have to play hard to win. Of course, there are also beatdowns at the hands of the Magic(111-82) and Atlanta(116-92) mixed in as well.
The Cavaliers should win tonight - unless they play with the lack of intensity we have seen at times the past couple of weeks. This is a difficult time for the Cavaliers. The return of Zydrunas Ilgauskas is just a few days away(we hope) and the playoffs lie just 4 weeks away. With the best record in the East, and in the NBA still at stake, the Cavaliers have plenty to play for.