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Game Thread #5: Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers

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The first meeting of what should be a very entertaining season series. Bulls vs. Lebron and the Jamesons. Immaturity aside, Lebron is the most likely candidate at MVP, and I even picked the Cavs to finish with the Conference's best record. But they're obviously not perfect, evidenced by an OT home loss to the Hawks on Tuesday.

For those who thought the Bulls defense was 'already good' and didn't need an upgrade, remember the tough times they had with athletic superstars like LeBron:

James averaged 34.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists to lead Cleveland (2-2) to a four-game sweep of Chicago (2-2) last season. Only one of the games was decided by fewer than eight points.

The Bulls employed different defenders such as Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni, but nothing seemed to work against James.

``LeBron was able to get off on us a little, and we didn't do a good job of stopping him,'' said Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich after a 91-72 win by Cleveland on March 5 completed the sweep. ``He's made big plays against us all season.''

Chicago will try to use a combination of Deng and Nocioni again, but the addition of Wallace - a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year - should help cut down on James' penetration to the basket.

However, Bulls coach Scott Skiles does not want his perimeter defenders to rely too much on Wallace lurking behind them.

``That has become an issue already,'' Skiles said. ``We have some lazy perimeter defense and that is not fair. Ben Wallace is very adept at not getting into foul trouble. But, we need to play better perimeter defense.''

I heard that Skiles quote after the game Monday, and it's probably natural. Hell, look at how Detroit's defense is faring...having Wallace makes your team better defenders, not just an upgrade at the center position. Hopefully it won't lead to what Skiles is fearing, although one great benefit is that it allows a sometimes-shaky defender like Gordon (or anyone, really, not to pick on Ben) to let Wallace cover up his mistake. And that (and Thabo!) keeps him on the floor to put up points.

But one guy that may help just as much as Wallace is Tyrus Thomas, who hopefully will be playing tonight. Not sure if they had this in mind during draft night (who am I kidding, the pulsing brain of Pax was all over it), but after watching his early career you can envision Thomas as a future LeBron-stopper.

Blogging with the Enemy: YAYSports! | Cavalier Attitude

This is a big game, exposure-wise (TNT, LeBron hype, etc...) and in terms of an early 'test'. The Cavs frontcourt is deep, but with their offseason additions the Bulls should have closed that gap. Still waiting for the half-court offense to show up, but a nice display of transition basketball would be nothing to complain about.