Chicago’s opposition tonight will be the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are the cream of the crop of the Eastern Conference. Behind the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving the Cavaliers are expected to reach the NBA Finals for the third straight year in a row. It’s their conference to win and they know that. Cleveland enters this game on a three-game winning streak and have 9 of their last 10 games. They most recently beat the New Orleans Pelicans after knocking off two of the better teams in the East in the Boston Celtics and Hornets. With a 3.5 game lead over second place Toronto and a six game lead over third place Boston, it’s clear that the Cavaliers have time to coast through the conference and will be ready to steam roll East come playoff time. It’s just about staying healthy.
Speaking of health, a lot of questions surround the health of both teams coming into this matchup. For the Bulls, Dwyane Wade is a game time decision according to Sean Highkin of the Athletic. Highkin also noted in a Tweet that it will be Doug McDermott who starts again if Wade isn’t able to go. In Chicago’s 111-106 win over Cleveland on December 2nd, Wade was a big part of the victory. He scored 26 points on 11 of 23 shooting and was part of a Bulls starting lineup which saw four of its five starters score in double digits. If Wade can’t go, expect the offense to rely on the shoulders of Jimmy Butler and don’t be surprised if he tries to pull another 50-point performance against Cleveland.
The Cavaliers have health issues of their own, particularly surrounding their big three. We already knew sharpshooter J.R. Smith was going to be out with a wrist injury but it’s possible that none of Cleveland superstars will be playing tonight. The flu bug has seemed to hit the Cavaliers hard as both Kevin Love and LeBron James supposedly have it. Irving is also dealing with an injury as well that makes him a question heading into tonights game.
If Irving can’t go, expect Jordan McRae and Kay Felder to get his minutes. With both Michael Carter-Williams and Jerian Grant likely to play minutes for Chicago, we could be in for a night of young, if poor, point guard play.
With the possibility that the big three for Cleveland could be out along with D-Wade, this night could turn into another instance of Jimmy Butler going off offensively to carry Chicago. Expect the Bulls to put up a good fight to try and grab another meaningless regular season victory against LeBron James’s team.
Game time: 7PM CT
TV: WGN or ESPN, the game will be on both channels tonight