Cleveland Cavaliers (30-6) vs
Chicago Bulls (17-22)
United Center, Chicago, IL
Thursday, January 15, 2009
8:00 PM EST
Despite Rick’s urgent pleas earlier this week, Ben Wallace is still suffering with the flu and will be out for tonight’s game against the Bulls. So once again the shorthanded Cavaliers will have to try to find a way to win on the road without some key players. The Cavaliers and Bulls have split their last 10 matchups right down the middle at 5 a piece. However, the Cavs have had the recent momentum on their side, as they’ve won 3 straight against them. We’ll see if the Cavaliers can make it 4 in a row against their division rivals tonight.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Mo Williams (15.7 ppg, 3.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 16.10 PER)
-G Delonte West (12.3 ppg, 3.5 apg, .405 3P%, 15.46 PER)
-F LeBron James (27.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 6.7 apg, 32.74 PER)
-F Lorenzen Wright (1.1 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 0.1 bpg, 2.63 PER)
-C Anderson Varejao (9.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 16.46 PER)
Key Reserves: Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, JJ Hickson, Sasha Pavlovic
Injuries: Ben Wallace (out), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (out), Eric Snow (out)
-G Derrick Rose (16.9 ppg, 6.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 15.80 PER)
-G Ben Gordon (20.6 ppg, 3.7 apg, .414 3P%, 16.86 PER)
-F Luol Deng (13.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 14.19 PER)
-F Tyrus Thomas (8.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 14.42 PER)
-C Joakim Noah (4.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 15.25 PER)
Key Reserves: Larry Hughes, Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni, Thabo Sefolosha
Injuries: Drew Gooden (day-to-day), Michael Ruffin (out)
Team Efficiency Stats
-Off (101.4 ppg, 41.5 rpg, .481 FG%, .759 FT%, 20.4 apg, Eff-110.5, Rank-2)
-Def (88.9 ppg, 38.1 rpg, .420 FG%, Eff-96.2, Rank-1)
-Off (99.3 ppg, 41.6 rpg, .441 FG%, .798 FT%, 20.2 apg, Eff-101.9, Rank-22)
-Def (102.9 ppg, 43.9 rpg, .456 FG%, Eff-105.4, Rank-18)
- Chicago 93 at Cleveland 107 (11/05/08) [box]
- Cleveland 106 at Chicago 97 (11/08/08) [box]
- Chicago 92 at Cleveland 117 (01/02/09) [box]
It’s hard to believe, but unless the Bulls get into the playoffs, this is already the last time the Cavaliers and Bulls will play this season. The Cavaliers have won all 3 games so far this season, and LeBron has been outstanding in all 3 of those games. Not that that’s saying much, he’s pretty outstanding against most teams, but he has really seemed to elevate his game this year whenever the Bulls have stood in his way.
The key for the Cavaliers is simply going to be similar to the way they played against Memphis. Glide through the first half as much as possible without exerting too much energy or committing too many fouls, and then trying to step on it in the 2nd half. The Bulls pull down a lot of rebounds (granted, they shoot and miss an awful lot, too, thus creating a lot of rebounding opportunities….their opponents still get more rebounds per game than they do), and that’s going to be something to watch with the Cavaliers’ depleted front court. I’m not sure I buy into Mike Brown’s philosophy that Hickson shouldn’t start because he’s used to coming off the bench right now. I appreciate the sentiment, and obviously Mike Brown is much, much, much smarter than I am, but Lorenzen Wright just doesn’t have anything to offer on the basketball court. Ideally, we’ll see Hickson getting a ton of minutes again this game as he continues to steadily improve. I’d imagine we’ll see more of Darnell Jackson as well.
Offensively, I want to see the Cavaliers find a rhythm without Z and stick with it. In the game against Memphis, the Cavaliers were moving the ball well on the first possession and Delonte got AV setup underneath for an easy uncontested layup. On the second possession, LeBron stood around and held the ball until he finally gave it up to Mo Williams with 2 on the shot clock. Mo had to chuck up a 3 that he happened to make, but it was not in the flow of good offense. In that possession, LeBron seemed to completely change the focus and identity of the offense, and they spent much of the rest of the first half trying to figure out what they were doing. They have to break out of that habit.
Furthermore, as much as it sounds like I’m just blaming LeBron, I think Mo Williams deserves some of the blame for it as well. He is not being assertive enough offensively. And by that, I don’t mean he’s not shooting enough. No, what I mean is, he’s not running the offense. His assists are down to 3.9 per game. That is unacceptable for a starting PG. He needs to start running the ball and not just handing it off to LeBron every time down the court. I’m sure it’s not easy to say no to LeBron, but at some point Mo needs to get those assist numbers back up.
If it sounds like this is a lot of complaining, I don’t intend it to come across that way. There are just some trends that still bother me a little bit and I would love nothing more than to see the Cavaliers clean them up a bit. Their offense is now 2nd in efficiency in the NBA after being in first for almost 2 months. I realize Z is out, and the Cavaliers still managed to beat the Celtics, but come playoff time, you have to have your bad habits corrected. You cannot win an NBA title when your offense is one guy holding onto the ball until there are 5 seconds left on the shot clock. That’s just bad form, and when playing mediocre defensive teams like the Bulls, you should be trying to take advantage and figuring some of these things out.
From The Outside Looking In
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Friday, January 16, 2009
8:00 PM EST
New Orleans Hornets at Cleveland Cavaliers