Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers
Time: 7:30 PM CT (ABC)
Spread: CLE -10.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Cleveland Cavaliers are 30-11 and in possession of the best record in the East, but that did not stop them from firing head coach David Blatt.
Blatt’s firing is shrouded in a bit of mystery, but the Cavs will keep ticking with new coach Tyronn Lue. Cleveland hosts the Chicago Bulls at 7:30 Central on ABC. NBA oddsmakers favor the Cavs by 10.5 points in the game.
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Cleveland has still won eight of its past 10 games, and the circumstances around Blatt’s firing seem to have to do with a feud between he and Kevin Love, but we may never know for sure. The Cavs were romped by the Golden State Warriors on national television, and that game surely played no small role in deciding to part ways with Blatt.
Since the 132-98 loss to the Warriors, the Cavs have won its past two games over the Brooklyn Nets and L.A. Clippers. In the 115-102 win over the Clips all five Cavaliers starters reached double-figures, with LeBron James and J.R. Smith tied for the team lead with 22 points apiece. Kevin Love had 18 points and 16 rebounds, as all Cavs starters posted a positive plus/minus.
Cleveland has been said to be shopping big man Timofey Mozgov, and the 7’1” center will surely draw some interest around the league. Mozgov is averaging 6.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game, but he is a big body and fairly athletic. He can anchor a defense, even if his shot blocking numbers are not off the charts.
Mozgov is averaging 11 points and five rebounds per game over the Cavs’ last two contests, and if he were packaged with another player the Cavs could bring in some needed depth in the backcourt. It also would clear the way for Tristan Thompson to start the rest of the season.
Many criticized the Cavs for dealing out max-money to Thompson, but he has been a solid reserve even if he is overpaid. Thompson is averaging 7.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in 27 minutes a night, and with Mozgov gone those numbers surely would a double-double average.
Even so, all this tinkering may not be so important if the Cavs’ big three begins to come together. Kyrie Irving has been great since returning from injury, averaging 16.1 points and 3.9 assists per game in just 26 minutes a night. Irving has seen 29 minutes or less in the Cavaliers last three contests, but he had 21 points and four assists on 8 of 18 shooting against the Clippers.
When he is at his best, it makes stopping the Cavaliers very difficult given that LeBron James nearly always requires a double-team and Kevin Love can hit the triple. The potential for this Cavs team to be even better than the 60 wins that Blatt was guiding them towards is most certainly there.
The Bulls have dropped three of its past four contests with losses coming to the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics. Chicago’s last victory came 111-101 over the Detroit Pistons.
In last night’s 111-101 victory over the Boston Celtics, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose turned in masterful performances. They combined to hit 20 of 41 from the field for 55 points. Butler also led the Bulls in rebounds with 14, four of which were offensive. When Butler is cooking it is rare for the Bulls to lose, but the defense against Boston was just not there.
Chicago has not been its usual defensive self under head coach Fred Hoiberg and is allowing 101.5 points per game this season. Given that Chicago scores just 0.3 points per game more than that, it is hard to see this team considerably improving its .571 win percentage before the season ends.