Chicago Bulls (7-9) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (13-5)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Friday, December 4, 2009
8:00 PM EST
A tale of two teams. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Wait a minute, strike that. Reverse it. Whatever the case may be, the Cavaliers have endured their growing pains and early struggles and are starting to put things together. The offense has been moving the ball well again and the defense has started to pick up some intensity as well. Shaq is still somewhat of a work in progress, but we’re beginning to see Delonte West start to look like the player he was last year. 2 games is too small of a sample to be a proper microcosm of a season, but the feeling about this team right now is better, DNP-Gate not withstanding. Tonight, the Cavaliers seek revenge on the Bulls and look to keep the momentum going.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Derrick Rose (15.8 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 14.84 PER)
-G John Salmons (14.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, 12.62 PER)
-F Luol Deng (18.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, 17.63 PER)
-F Taj Gibson (7.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 11.16 PER)
-C Joakim Noah (11.2 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 17.95 PER)
Key Reserves: Brad Miller, Jannero Pargo, Aaron Gray, Lindsey Hunter
Injuries: Tyrus Thomas (out), Kirk Hinrich (out), James Johnson (out), Jannero Pargo (probable), Aaron Gray (probable)
-G Mo Williams (17.4 ppg, 4.6 apg, 1.2 spg, 16.23 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (8.4 ppg, 1.7 apg, .508 3P%, 9.93 PER)
-F LeBron James (28.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 8.1 apg, 30.15 PER)
-F JJ Hickson (7.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.3 bpg, 13.71 PER)
-C Shaquille O’Neal (11.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 15.73 PER)
Key Reserves: Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Daniel Gibson, Delonte West, Jamario Moon
Injuries: Leon Powe (out)
Team Efficiency Stats
-Off (91.4 ppg, 42.9 rpg, .435 FG%, 19.8 apg, 14.6 TOpg, Eff-97.9, Rank-27)
-Def (96.8 ppg, 43.7 rpg, .453 FG%, Eff-102.6, Rank-11)
-Off (99.5 ppg, 40.6 rpg, .478 FG%, 21.2 apg, 14.1 TOpg, Eff-106.8, Rank-9)
-Def (94.3 ppg, 39.6 rpg, .441 FG%, Eff-100.3, Rank-5)
- Chicago 86 at Cleveland 85 – 11/05/09 [box]
- Fri, Mar 19 at Chicago
- Thu, Apr 8 at Chicago
Whereas last season the Cavaliers took care of business against the weaker teams but sometimes struggled a bit with the elite teams, this year the Cavaliers are doing the opposite it seems. They have played some of their best games this year against the elite teams, but they have allowed the weaker teams to lull them to sleep. This plays quite nicely into the Bulls’ hands. It also happens to be the Bulls’ best chance in this game.
Facing a whole mess of injuries, the Bulls are extremely short handed and will need to rely more on their starters. Amongst their starters they have 2 solid players (Deng and Noah), 1 inconsistent rookie (Gibson), and 2 seriously struggling players (Rose and Salmons). After a remarkable rookie year, we’re seeing Derrick Rose come back to earth a bit. He’s down a whole assists from last year’s average, although a good part of that could be Salmons.
When Brad Miller and John Salmons were traded from Sacramento to Chicago last year, they really seemed to breathe some invigorating life into the Bulls. But now, without the instant scoring machine Ben Gordon coming off their bench, the Bulls are lacking a consistent half court threat on offense. Salmons was supposed to shoulder some of that load, but his numbers are down across the board and his shooting numbers are downright frightening in how bad they are by his own standards.
There was some hope, too, that Rose would carry some of the load in the place of Gordon, but it’s just not happening right now. It’s not like he’s been terrible or anything like that, but his signature burst off his first step is seriously lacking this year and his confidence looks shaken. When the Cavaliers played the Bulls last time, they did not have a fully functioning Delonte West to help with Rose, and he put up 14 pts and 11 assists. This time around, the Cavaliers will ideally be able to use West a little more on Rose, and let Williams and Gibson take turns on Salmons, whose size advantage is mitigated by his shooting woes.
On offense, ideally the Cavaliers will continue to selectively break out and run a bit more, and keep the beautiful ball movement going. Watching this team pass the ball all over the court these last 2 games has been like watching poetry in motion. Michael Malone is showing us that John Kuester wasn’t the only guy on the staff who understands how an offense should work, and he deserves a lot of credit for getting the Cavaliers back on track.
Having Aaron Gray back is a big help for the Bulls in defending Shaq and Z. They also have Noah, who is a crafty defender. It will be interesting to see how the Bulls defend JJ Hickson. Last time out, Taj Gibson by far outshined Hickson, but it was after that Bulls game that Hickson moved into the starting lineup and started to become the player he’s been the last few weeks. We’ll see if JJ can make a statement in this one.
In general, this is a home game for the Cavaliers, and I think their depth will end up being the difference. Earlier this season I blasted Mike Brown for how atrocious his rotations were and how he was essentially using a 7 player rotation. To his credit, other than snubbing one of this franchise’s greatest players on his big night (sorry, MB, I’m carrying this grudge for awhile) his rotations and substitution patterns have dramatically improved. The Cavaliers currently have 10 players averaging over 18 minutes per game, which means Mike Brown is finally figuring out how to use his depth as an advantage. I realize the word “finally” sounds like a dig, but in all seriousness, these things really do take time. He’s getting things worked out, and the Cavaliers are playing much improved. It’s that depth that should give them their biggest advantage tonight in this game.
From The Outside Looking In
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Sunday, December 6, 2009
3:00 PM EST
Cleveland Cavaliers at Milwaukee Bucks