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Bulls vs. Cavaliers game preview and thread: are we surging?

second night of a back-to-back, first of a 2-game series versus the Cavs

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, your 16-19 Chicago Bulls celebrate New Year’s Eve by testing out their recent 5-1 tear as they host one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, the 22-14 Cleveland Cavaliers, for their first of a two-game miniseries against the Cavs.

It’s the start of a brutal slate of games against several talented teams.

Some major injury luck could help tilt the game in Chicago’s favor, as the Cavs may be missing two starters in All-Star point guard Darius Garland and second-year power forward Evan Mobley, plus a few other pieces who play legit minutes. The Cavaliers, losers of three straight, have struggled mightily to contain opponents along the wing recently, having let each of their last three opponents convert 51% or more of their three-point tries (their last two opponents both made 60% or more).

The Bulls might not be frequent three-point shooters, but they do make them at a respectable clip. Last night was yet another example of that, as Chicago took 12 fewer treys (27) than Detroit (39), but made 44.4%, right in line with the Pistons’ 43.6%.

Zach LaVine scored 43 points last night while shooting 15-of-20 from the floor (a team-best 5-of-9 from deep) and 8-of-8 from the free-throw line, helping the Bulls pull away to win a Pistons game that stayed unnecessarily close late. Lately, he’s actually started to look more consistently like himself again, getting to the rim with ease while also trusting his jumper more. For December, LaVine is averaging 25.2 points on .530/.432/.821 shooting splits, 4.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

Will an encore performance be enough for an impressive Cleveland team? The last time these two clubs faced off this season, the Cavs mightily overpowered the Bulls, 128-96, at the United Center, despite a 23-point Zach night.

The Cavaliers, when healthy, boast a massive front line and an incredibly talented, volume shooting backcourt. The Bulls struggled to either contain Cleveland’s three-point shooting on defense or match it on offense in the two teams’ prior October meeting. Can Chicago capitalize on the Cavs’ apparent lackadaisical three-point defense of late?

Injury Report:

Goran Dragic is getting the veteran’s day off tonight, listed as doubtful. Derrick Jones is questionable. Caruso, Green, and White, who all played last night, are probable to do so again.

The Cavaliers will be without long-term injury absences Ricky Rubio, Dean Wade and Dylan Windler. Three big rotation players — Darius Garland (right thumb sprain), Evan Mobley (sore right ankle) and Cedi Osman (sore low back — join the club, Cedi) — are questionable to suit up today. Old pal Robin Lopez is probable to play through an illness.

Game Time: 6 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago.