After tying up the series Wednesday night in decisive fashion, the Cleveland Cavaliers travel to Chicago in search of a 2-1 series lead.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers vs Chicago Bulls
When? 8:00 p.m.
Where? United Center, Chicago Illinois
Where on my eyeballs? ESPN
Enemy Blog? Blog a Bull
Rose's knees smell like poo poo with only one day of rest.
The Cavaliers were able to capitalize on the Bulls coming back to earth in Game 2, as well as a much better effort out of LeBron James. The Bulls still came out of Cleveland with homecourt advantage in this series and will be unlikely to relinquish it easily.
The Cavaliers will have more help Friday night with the return of J.R. Smith from his two game suspension. While Smith has been the starting shooting guard for his entire time in Cleveland, Iman Shumpert has been phenomenal in the first two games in the series. While the possibility of small ball with both Smith and Shumpert at the two and the three and LeBron at the four may have been entertained earlier, the play of Tristan Thompson has likely cemented his spot in the starting lineup. It'll be interesting to see what Blatt decides to do. Personally I'd probably slide Smith back into the starting lineup, and using the smaller lineup if Thibodeau decides to play Nikola Mirotic at the four rather than the struggling Joakim Noah.
Wherever he is inserted in the lineup, the return of Smith will help alleviate some of the strain that has been on the Cavs perimeter rotations. It also helps open up spacing for the pick and roll and gives the Cavs another player that can create his own shot.
The Cavs offense was considerably better in game two, but there was certainly a lot of room for them to play better. While LeBron was phenomenal in scoring thirty three points, he had taken twenty nine shots. With Kyrie Irving shouldering more of the offensive load and Smith providing his scoring touch, it'll likely result in more efficient offensive play from the entire team.
From a Bulls standpoint, they are going to need a lot more out of Jimmy Butler than what he provided on Wednesday. He needs to play at an incredibly high level offensively, while playing lockdown defense on LeBron every night in order to give the Bulls a chance to win. Not exactly a small task. They also need to find a way to make up for the lack of production they're receiving from Noah and Rose. Noah has been a non-factor, while Rose's season long numbers on one day of rest indicate that it's very possible that he won't be able to elevate his own game during this series with limited resting time. Even in a game one where he had an abnormally good shooting night, hitting some absurd shots; it still took him twenty six shots to get his twenty five points.
Other answers do exist though. Mirotic looked healthy and ready to go in the final minutes of game two, so it's possible that he starts putting his fingerprints on the series starting in game three. He is a tremendous young talent that was probably the Bulls second best player down the stretch. Him, along with Mike Dunleavy, Butler and Pau Gasol still are a very formidable grouping of players that will test the Cavs. Of course it's very possible that Thibodeau sticks with the same starters and keeps Mirotic on the pine and my praise of his game proves to be pointless, only time will tell.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction:
I think the Cavs come out with a purpose early and that causes the demons of LeBron past to start to creep into the mind of the Bulls players. While it won't be as easy as Game 2, I think the Cavs come away with a 103-95 win and gain control of the series.