Betting odds c/o Bovada
The Chicago Bulls are now having the problem detractors said they would: scoring has become dry.
The Bulls were unable to get it going offensively in Game 2, and lost badly at Cleveland. Now, the series shifts back to Chicago where NBA oddsmakers are setting the line 1.5 points in favor of Coach Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls. Early NBA live lines showed the over/under at 195, a reflection of the defensive intensity in this series, but if you don’t understand those odds see our NBA odds explained.
The Bulls simply could not find the range in Game 2, and many wondered if Coach Thibodeau may have been better turning to some of his more offensive players the bench like Nikola Mirotic (just nine minutes through the first two games). Joakim Noah, ever good for energy, defense and hustle—was of little offensive use, attempting just four field goals in 30 minutes.
Derrick Rose was ice cold, going just 6 of 20 from the field, and Jimmy Butler was unable to get much going either, finishing with 18 points on just five makes. Taj Gibson provided good minutes off the bench, but the Bulls were out rebounded 45-37, and the Cavs starting frontcourt had 27 rebounds between it, Timfoey Mozgov (12) leading the way.
The Cavs also got the shooting it needed off its bench from James Jones, who came in to hit five three-pointers with J.R. Smith suspended for the game. Matthew Delladova chipped in nine more points as the Cavs got 26 from the tandem of Jones and Delladova, which matched the entire Chicago Bulls’ bench.
What distinguished the Cavs as 106-91 winners was the 38 point first quarter it put together, while taking a 20 point lead after just 12 minutes. The rest of the game was a fairly even knot, but the Cavs had established that huge lead and left Chicago playing from behind the entire game.
The Bulls did outscore Cleveland in fast break points 10-5, but Cleveland turned the ball over just eight times while assisting 19 field goals of 37 makes. Hitting 12 threes (46.2 percent) was the other thing that held the Bulls back, as they were late on rotations to James Jones the entire evening. While Jones may be one of the more one-dimensional bench players in the league, he also can’t just be left open, or he is scoring 17 points in 22 minutes and helping Cleveland tie this series up 1-1.
The Bulls are not an overwhelmingly dominant team at home, but it is still a home game in the postseason and 27-14 at home is still enough to be good for a 1.5 point edge in NBA odds. Cleveland was also just 22-19 on the road in the 2014-15 season, while the Bulls were about the same. The homecourt, consequently, isn’t as vital because both teams are overwhelmingly dominant on their homecourts, but because each is so mediocre on the road.
Getting one game in Cleveland was huge for the Bulls because it gave them the homecourt advantage in this very closely matched series. With Kevin Love on the shelf for the remainder of the year for Cleveland, it hurts, but by no means kills their title chances. Love was in the midst of a rather ho-hum year, and Tristan Thompson brings energy in abundance.
To be sure, Thompson is not the talent Love is; he can’t hit threes really, but the Cavs have the shooters (particularly with J.R. Smith suiting back up) to keep the floor spaced for Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Irving maintained his high scoring numbers with the addition of James and has found himself relieved of a lot of playmaking duties, which has actually made his game easier. The Cavs can put a scare into the Bulls by reclaiming homecourt advantage with a win, and it’s hard to necessarily go against LBJ in a playoff series against a team has so thoroughly dominated in the past.