[Thanks to Rohmeresque, a new BaB user, for today's game preview. Spots are available up through the All-Star break -yfbb]
In a world not-to-far-gone, the Bulls playing the Cavaliers carried major implications. In an Eastern conference dominated by whatever team LeBron James happens to be on at the time, his almost yearly main competition would be the Bulls. Before every matchup people would ask, "Is this the year the Bulls take down LeBron?" But alas, those days are gone. Lets take a look at this matchup, first through the lens of the drama drenched Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers rank 5th in Offensive Rating, 4th in Defensive Rating, are in 1st place in the East, and for all intents and purposes have no legitimate threat to a second straight finals trip. Let that sink in. Then remember that yesterday; the Cavaliers fired their head coach David Blatt. Though only in his second season Blatt had a .732 winning percentage. He is officially the most winningest coach to ever lose his job (per @ESPNstatsinfo). To say that this matchup doesn't have the normal feel to it would be an understatement.
The thought would be that with a new head coach the Cavaliers are at risk of coming out a bit discombobulated and will need a few games to get into the swings of the new regime. But one of the reasons the Cavaliers fired Blatt was that they were never really running any plays on offense (besides those lobs from Dellavedova to Thompson/Mozgov) and yet they were still winning the majority of their games, often convincingly. So even taking into account growing pains the Cavaliers don't really have much to adjust to. The NBA world will be watching this game closely and the Cavaliers know that. With that in mind, there's the chance we're going to see a rejuvenated Cavaliers squad tonight intent on proving the doubters wrong. Re-set and locked-in on their championship or bust goal. The fact they are going up against a bitter rival will only add to this fire.
Now for the Bulls. The Bulls did not fire their rookie head coach Fred Hoiberg, but as we've seen time-and-time-again the Bulls continue to do their best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde impersonation. Their record says it all: loses to the likes of Brooklyn, Phoenix and New York but wins against Cleveland, the Clippers, Spurs, and Thunder. Figuring out this Bulls teams is a feat in-and-of-itself. Would it be surprising if the Bulls beat by the Cavs by 20? No. Would it be surprising if the Bulls lost to the Cavs by 20? No. This is the reality of the Bulls.
With all that said, what can we expect from this game? Despite the schizophrenic nature of the Bulls, and the fact this is the second game of a back-to-back, they have the tendency to get up for games against good teams and especially for games against the Cavaliers. Look for this to be a close back-and-forth game with the Bulls pulling out a last second victory that will have people talking about them as a legitimate team again. But the Bulls follow this game up with a Monday night tilt against Miami where they could easily lose as they morph back into Mr. Hyde.