Chicago vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Time: 7 PM EDT
Spread: CLE -4.5
M/L: CLE -190; CHI +165
Betting odds c/o Bovada
The Chicago Bulls got by the Milwaukee Bucks 4-2 while the Cleveland Cavaliers routed the Celtics in four games.
The Cavs will hold home court advantage in this best of 7, with NBA oddsmakers setting the NBA live line 4.5 points in favor of the Cavaliers in Game 1. The over/under is set at 196, and for an explanation of how to bet these odds see our NBA odds explained.
The Cleveland Cavaliers playoff chances haven’t been dealt a death blow, but losing starting power forward Kevin Love for the remainder of the season isn’t the rosiest thing for its prospects. The Cavs have the depth in the frontcourt to weather Love’s injury, but are now going to be relying on a big series from Tristan Thompson.
J.R. Smith is also suspended the first two games of this series, which is another blow to the Cavs. Even with both those things working against it, Cleveland is favored in Game 1. The Chicago Bulls are fully healthy.
Much of how this series takes shape will hinge upon the matchup at the point guard spot. Derrick Rose has been gaining steam and Kyrie Irving is having a strong postseason. Irving has averaged 23.3 points, five rebound and 4.3 assists per game in 40.5 minutes a night over his first four postseason games in 2015.
LeBron James has been his typically dazzling self, with 27 points, nine rebound and 6.5 assists per game, as well as 3.75 blocks/steals per game. The Cavs Big 3 is reduced to a Big 2, but it’s a very strong duo. The Bulls will try to counter it with its quartet of Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah.
James closed out the Celtics series with a near-triple-double, scoring 27 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out eight assists as the Cavs wrapped up the series with Boston in Game 4 back on Apr 26. With eight full days of rest, there could potentially be some rust, but that may work itself off in a quarter of play.
James attempted an average of 24 field goals per game over the final 3 games of the Celtics series, and his role may grow further still with Love on the shelf. Moreover, while James has played the 4-spot in the past, his role may be shifting more back to a power-dominant stance. The Cavs are going to need his presence on the boards, and he’s averaged 10 rebounds per game over the past three games.
For the Bulls, Butler had a superb series against the Bucks. Butler averaged 24.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 42 minutes a night while also coming up with 2.5 steals per game. Rose saw 36.7 minutes per game and averaged 19 points per game. Rose’s best game of the series came in Game 3 when he posted 34 points and eight assists, while shooting 12 of 23 from the floor. In four of the six games of the series, Rose shot less than 50 percent from the floor. He’s hitting just 41 percent from the field in the postseason, but to be clear Rose has little of the explosiveness that once made him the league’s youngest MVP.
The Bulls will need Rose to challenge Irving in this series. The Cavs are going to rely heavily on James and Kyrie, and because Butler has already been asked to do so much offensively, it’s going to require other Bulls to step up if Chicago is to win this series. A lot of Bulls supporters would believe there is a huge swing in Chicago’s favor with Love out the duration of the season, but there’s no reason to believe that is necessarily the case.
Thompson is a former lottery pick capable of putting up big double-doubles, and the Bulls are a team without a truly premier option to feed during crunch time. When the game is on the line and the ball is in Irving or James’ hands, the Bulls are going to be relying on a much less dominant Butler or a mildly effective Derrick Rose. Expect Cleveland to be able to handle matters both in game 1 in and in the series.