Who: Chicago Bulls @ Cleveland Cavaliers
When: 8:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Where to watch: ABC
With both the all-star break and trade deadline behind us, the NBA season is heading down the home stretch as teams gear up for potential playoff runs. The Cavaliers’ and Bulls’ approaches to the stretch run differ rather drastically, however. The Cavs spent the deadline looking to add their roster while the Bulls were shopping their best player, Jimmy Butler.
Chicago decided to keep Butler, but that did not keep the Bulls from making any other moves at the deadline. They sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to Oklahoma City for Cameron Payne and Joffrey Lauvergne. Gibson and McDermott were the Bulls’ third and fourth leading scorers behind Butler and Dwayne Wade, and Gibson was the Chicago’s leading rebounder before being dealt.
From here on out, the Cavs’ eyes will be set on the playoffs, and Chicago’s focus is…well, it’s a little difficult to tell what the Bulls’ focus is. They are still in the playoff picture, but the fact that there was some discussion about dealing Butler indicates that the Bulls aren’t exactly dead set on making the postseason.
On the court, things have been going well for Cleveland lately. The Cavs are 10-2 in their last 12 games dating back to before the all-star break. Kyle Korver has seemingly found his role with the Cavs, as the sharpshooter has scored 20 or more points in three of his last six games. What’s even more impressive than that is the fact that he has done so by shooting 68 percent in that stretch.
When Kevin Love went down, LeBron James reassured everyone that things would be fine and that he had everything under control. So far, James has kept his word, averaging 24.6 points per game and dishing out 11 assists per game in the three games since Love left the lineup.
Previous Matchups: Cleveland has made easy work of the East, going 26-6 against Eastern Conference foes. However, the Cavs have had problems with Chicago this season, as the Bulls have won both of the previous meetings this season. The first time these teams faced each other this season was in early December, and the Cavs were coming off two straight losses. The first loss was a 111-105 loss in early December. It was the Cavs’ third straight loss at the time that resulted in LeBron declaring that the honeymoon stage was over for Cleveland
The second matchup was a 12-point loss on January 4, the first loss of a down January for the Cavs. The Cavs were without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in that game and Jimmy Butler took advantage of the shorthanded Cavaliers, scoring 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Bulls.
Fearless Prediction: I have a hard time seeing the Cavs drop their third straight game to a Chicago Bulls team that has been struggling lately. Plus, the Bulls caught the Cavs at a bad time in both of the first two matchups. On top of that, this game will be the back end of a back-to-back for the Bulls. The Cavs stay hot and beat the Bulls 112-98.