The Cleveland Cavaliers will look to bounce back tonight against the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are playing some of the best basketball in the league as they’ve won four straight games and have been one of the most consistent teams in the conference. This should be a fun matchup for the Cavs.
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse — Cleveland, Ohio
When: 7 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass, Bally Sports App
Spread: Cavs - 2.5
Opposing blog: Blog a Bull
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Lauri Markkanen / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs injury report: Collin Sexton (OUT - meniscus), Dean Wade (QUESTIONABLE - calf strain), Tacko Fall (OUT - 2 way), RJ Nembhard Jr. (OUT - 2 way)
Expected Bulls starting lineup: Lonzo Ball / Zach LaVine / Ayo Dosunmu / Derrick Jones Jr. / Nikola Vucevic
Bulls injury report: Alex Caruso (DOUBTFUL - right hamstring strain), DeMar DeRozan (OUT - health and safety), Javonte Green (OUT - health and safety), Coby White (OUT - health and safety), Matt Thomas (OUT - health and safety), Patrick Williams (OUT - left wrist)
Three things to watch
Darius Garland vs. Lonzo Ball. Garland had one of his worst shooting nights of the season against Jrue Holiday and the Milwaukee Bucks. According to the NBA’s defensive data, Garland was held to just 1 for 6 shooting from the field and had 2 assists with 1 turnover when Holiday was covering him. Garland finished Monday’s contest with 10 points on 3 of 12 shooting.
Holiday’s height and physicality were able to take Garland out of his game offensively. Lonzo Ball doesn’t have the reputation Holiday does as a defender, but he is also a phenomenal defender of his own. Ball also presents similar height (6’ 6”) and length issues that Holiday did.
We’ll see if Garland does a better job of navigating a lengthy, versatile defense tonight.
Keeping Zach LaVine in check. LaVine is the focal point of this offense with DeRozan sidelined. The all-star guard is in the midst of one of his best seasons as a pro as he’s averaging 25.9 points on .490/.378/.864 shooting splits. LaVine carried the Bulls to a win over the Denver Nuggets in their first game without DeRozan by pouring in 32 points on 13 of 23 shooting while adding 8 assists.
The Bulls are 25th in assist percentage as only 57% of their field goals are assisted on. Much of LaVine’s offense, and the team’s in general, comes from isolations and high screens. The Bulls play a lot of five out offense with good shooters on the perimeter (4th in 3 point percentage at 36.9%) which gives LaVine the space he needs to operate.
This type of offense puts a premium on on-ball defense and the ability of your bigs to switch onto the perimeter. Isaac Okoro and the front court will have their hands full trying to stay in front of LaVine tonight while also not sacrificing open looks to Vucevic, who is shooting 47.4% from deep in his last 7 games, when they force the switch off screens.
Can the Cavs front court get going offensively? The Bulls have had a fantastic defense all year (105.6 defensive rating, good for fifth best in the NBA) thanks to their point of attack defense and their versatility on the perimeter and wing. The Bulls do a good job of forcing turnovers (10th in the league) and running teams off the three-point line (fifth-lowest opponent three-point attempts). However, the Bulls don’t have an imposing front court like the other top defenses the Cavs have faced this week.
Vucevic and Tony Bradley are the only true bigs currently in the rotation. The rest of their forward minutes are taken by rangy wings who are more known for their ability to switch onto the perimeter and disrupt passing lanes than they are for protecting the rim. This is where the Cavs will need to use their size inside to create an advantage.