Bulls-Cavaliers Preview

Cleveland Cavaliers Status Check:
Record: 21-44
Division: 3-11
Conference: 13-34
Road Record: 10-22
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Streak: Lost 3
Last game: 96-85 loss to Washington
PPG: 93.3 (25th)
Opponents PPG: 100.1 (26th)
Offensive Rating: 101.3 (24th)
Defensive Rating: 108.7 (26th)
Pace: 91.3 (14th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .465 (29th)
Turnover Percentage: .144 (23rd)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .722 (22nd)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .290 (7th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .220 (9th)
Opp. eFG%: .507 (26th)
Opp. TO%: .130 (22nd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .203 (13th)
Leading scorer: Kyrie Irving (18.5)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Cleveland Injury Report:
Semih Erden: out (sprained ankle)
Daniel Gibson: out (foot surgery)
Kyrie Irving: out (illness)
Anderson Varejao: out (broken right wrist)

Overview:
The Bulls won Wednesday night, but so did the Spurs, so it comes down to the final night of the season to see who will get the overall number one seed in the playoffs.

That really shouldn’t really be the first thing on the Bulls’ minds, the most important thing should be health, but maybe that explains why Tom Thibodeau was playing Derrick Rose and Luol Deng in the fourth quarter of last night’s game, after the Bulls had already clinched the East’s one seed.

If he was going to play anybody, it would be nice to see Rip Hamilton with Rose and Deng, because Hamilton is the guy that needs to be worked into this offense, being the new guy. Rose and Deng have played together for four years now. They’ve started with Rip for 15 games.

Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah were the ones carrying the Bulls last night. Boozer scored 16 points and shot 8-10. Noah scored 14 points and brought down 14 rebounds. Rose, Deng and Rip Hamilton combined to go just 11-32 (28 percent).

Chicago still shot 46.9 percent as a team, and had 27 assists (eleven more than the Pacers).

The Cavaliers, on the other hand, lost to by eleven to Washington. John Wall had a crazy game, scoring 21 points while adding seven rebounds, 13 assists and seven steals. Cleveland didn’t play their starters much. Actually the highest minutes for any Cleveland starter were Alonzo Gee at 23 minutes. Boozer was the lowest Bulls starter, also with 23 minutes.

The Bulls first round opponent is still up in the air. Chicago could face either Philadelphia or New York in round one. That series will start on Saturday. When the Sixers’ Evan Turner was asked what it would mean to play the Bulls in the first round, he gave Chicago some bulletin board material. “It means we’re dodging the tougher team,” Turner said. “That’s what I think.”

The Bulls’ response was what you would expect. “Well, all right,” Kyle Korver said. “I’m not going to get into a war of words with Evan Turner. All right, come play us.” Chicago predictably wasn’t outspoken on the topic, but I can guarantee they will use those words as fuel if they do meet the 76ers in the first round.

If New York wins tonight, the Bulls will face off against Philly. If the Knicks lose, and Philly wins, the Bulls will play New York.

Either way, the Bulls most important thing will be their health in the playoffs. As they’ve shown all season they can win games. But Derrick Rose will need to be healthy, Rip and Lu will have to be as healthy as they can be, and Boozington and Noah will have to continue playing the way they are now if the Bulls want to go deep into the playoffs.

Chicago can get to 50 wins on the season and the best record in the league back-to-back years.  But health and chemistry are the most important things…it’s a delicate balance.

“I want our starters to get more time together, so it will be similar to [last night],” said Thibodeau. “We’ll see how the game unfolds. I just want us to continue to take it step by step.”

The first step was getting that top seed in the East. But with the regular season ending tonight, the steps get tougher in the playoffs.

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