The Cleveland Cavaliers look to extend their winning streak to six games while the Chicago Bulls look to stay atop the Eastern Conference and snap their four game skid.
Where: United Center
When: 8:00 p.m.
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass, Bally Sports App
Spread: Cavs - 3
Opposing blog: Blog a Bull
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Lauri Markkanen / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs injury report: Lamar Stevens (OUT - left knee soreness), Rajon Rondo (OUT - right hamstring soreness), Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL), Collin Sexton (OUT - meniscus), RJ Nembhard Jr. (OUT - G League)
Expected Bulls starting lineup: Alex Caruso / Coby White / DeMar DeRozan / Alfonzo McKinnie / Nikola Vucevic
Bulls injury report: Alex Caruso (PROBABLE - return to competition), Tyler Cook (QUESTIONABLE - left ankle), Lonzo Ball (OUT - left knee), Zach LaVine (OUT - left knee), Derrick Jones Jr. (OUT - right knee), Patrick Williams (OUT - left wrist)
Three things to watch
DeMar DeRozan vs. Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls have struggled without LaVine in the lineup in their last three games. DeRozan has been forced to carry the offense in his stead and is shooting 40.7% from the field while averaging 21.3 points on 18 shots in his past three games without LaVine.
Markkanen has been a surprisingly good defender all season when paired with this front court. He is able to use his height to aggressively stay on perimeter players while not worrying too much about getting beat off the dribble as he knows that there will be help waiting for him at the rim. This was best seen Monday afternoon against James Harden. According to the NBA’s tracking data, Markkanen held the former MVP to just 6 points while being his primary defender that game.
The Cavs will try to use Markkanen’s length advantage to try and disrupt DeRozan in a similar way tonight. We’ll see if Markkanen is able to stay in front of DeRozan and use his length to challenge that incredibly consistent midrange shot.
The Cavs height advantage. The Bulls have had success with a smaller lineup all season. Their offense is borderline elite (112.1 offensive rating) thanks to their dynamic guard play and spacing on the perimeter. Their defense is substandard (109.9 defensive rating), but they do have good point of attack defense when Ball and Caruso are in the lineup which can cover up some of their deficiencies on the back line.
The Bulls are giving up the second most field goal attempts within 5 feet in the league (32.1 per game) and are allowing opponents to shoot 61.1% from that range. Their defense thrives on running teams off the line as opponents are attempting 31.8 threes per game which is the 3rd fewest in the league. In short, their success is built off of having a high powered offense and running teams off the three point line defensively.
This all should play into the Cavs favor as they are a team that wants to get to the paint early and often.
Evan Mobley in the post. Mobley had an outstanding game when these teams last played on December 8th as he finished with 16 points on 8 of 11 shooting. The rookie was able to use his height advantage to get clean looks with a litany of hook shots and other back to the basket post moves.
Mobley did most of his damage against the 6’ 6” Jones in December. Tonight he will be going up against former Cavalier Alfonzo McKinnie. McKinnie is 6’ 8” and has a wider frame than Jones, but he is still giving up four inches in height. I expect Mobley to try and replicate that success this evening.