Fresh and rested off their victory in Paris, the Cleveland Cavaliers (22-15) will come home to face the revitalized Chicago Bulls (19-22) at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Cleveland is seeking their fifth win in a row, while Chicago is looking seventh win in the last ten games.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse - Cleveland, OH
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, NBCS-CHI
Spread: CLE -4
Expected Cavs Starting Lineup: Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Max Strus, Dean Wade, Jarrett Allen
Cavs Injury Report: Darius Garland (jaw, OUT) Evan Mobley (knee, OUT), Ty Jerome (ankle, OUT), Max Strus (knee, QUESTIONABLE), Isaiah Mobley (G League, OUT),
Expected Bulls Starting Lineup: Coby White, Zach LaVine, Alex Caruso, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic
Bulls Injury Report: Lonzo Ball (knee, OUT), Torry Craig (right plantar fascia, OUT), Ayo Dosunmu (left shoulder, PROBABLE), Patrick Williams (ankle, QUESTIONABLE), Dalen Terry (left patella, PROBABLE), Onuralp Bitim (G League, OUT), Henri Drell (G League, OUT), Julian Phillips (G League, OUT), Adama Sonogo (G League, OUT)
What to Watch for: Helping Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell dropped 45 points on the Nets in Paris while also leading the team in assists and three-point makes. He was a one-man offense, but that of course is not sustainable. Cavaliers without the last name “Mitchell” shot 9-32 from deep (28.1%) and 17-52 (32.6%) overall. Having Max Strus on the court for only six minutes (he left early with knee soreness) didn’t help, but the Cavs let a huge lead slip in the second half before Mitchell heroically saved the offense.
If Strus is unable to play (and honestly, even if he is healthy), it would be prudent for the Cavs to give some minutes to Craig Porter as another tablesetter for the offense. Never mind that the Cavs’ offense is 4.4 points per 100 possessions better with CPJ on the floor than off (per Cleaning the Glass), but the halfcourt offense in particular is in the 90th percentile (+6.9 points per play). Neither the Cavs nor the Bulls play particularly fast (both are in the bottom third of the league in pace), which means there will be more half-court sets. CPJ isn’t a knock-down shooter, but he does get to the rim at a very high clip, make smart passes, and is a low-usage player who does not always need the ball in his hands.
While Mitchell gets the credit because of his final stat line, Caris LeVert was integral to the Cavs’ win in France. LeVert has 20+ points in four of his last five games and has 24 assists in those contests. Even more importantly, he hasn’t been a complete possession-killer, hitting 50% or more of his shots in three of those five matchups (that doesn't include a 3/7 performance where the Cavs obliterated the Washington Wizards). LeVert will continue to be crucial off the bench, as the Cavs will rely on his scoring ability with Darius Garland out.
The real issue comes in bench shooting. Sam Merrill and Georges Niang shot 4/15 from beyond the three-point arc and 5/18 overall against the Nets. Suffice it to say that that is not good enough to win games against even decent competition. This is another reason to play Porter more, as both of these guys rely on the playmaking of others to find them shooting windows. Mitchell can do this, but he is a shooting guard playing the point for a while.
One (other) Thing to Watch for: Defending Coby White
The Bulls survived, and thrived, without Zach LaVine largely because of starting point guard Coby White. Up until this season, White had been an up-and-down player for Chicago. But this season, White has turned a corner. He has at least 20 points in six of his last eight games and has been an efficient three-point shooter in those contests. Defending the Bulls gets much harder with White being a viable offensive weapon and the rest of the starting lineup healthy. Zach LaVine is back and will get his shots. DeMar DeRozan remains a deadly mid-range shooter. Nikola Vucevic is coming off a 24-point double-double. White can be an x-factor for the Bulls if the Cavs are forced to prioritize the other players on the floor.
One Stat to Watch for: Three-point barrage
The Bulls allow opponents to shoot 41.2% of their shots from three-point territory, the highest percentage in the NBA per Cleaning the Glass. Meanwhile, the Cavs are tenth in the league in three-pointers attempted per game - and fresh off 44 attempts against the Nets. The problem? Cleveland is 26th in the NBA in three-point make percentage. Long and short of it is that the Cavs will get three-point looks — and they have to hit them.