The last time these our Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers clubs squared off, Da Bulls did what they’ve done so well this season, squandering an 18-point halftime lead to eventually lose by double digits to Cleveland in overtime, 145-134. Donovan Mitchell brought the pain, scoring 71 points on 22-of-34 shooting from the field and a whopping 20-of-25 shooting from the charity stripe. The refs were kind to him, especially in the third quarter.
The Bulls’ “Big Three” of DeMar DeRozan (who had 44 points), Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic all performed admirably in the January defeat, but as usual it didn’t make much of a difference, since they typically get very little help in the scoring department and can’t stop anyone on the other end. That loss made them 0-3 record against the new-look Cavs this season (they got massacred 128-96 in their home opener and lost on a missed DDR buzzer beater on New Year’s Eve).
After the trade deadline, the mostly-healthy (outside of the two guys recovering from knee surgeries) Bulls put up a lifeless performance Thursday, losing 116-105 against a Brooklyn Nets team missing Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Seth Curry and Nic Claxton. Chicago looked deflated and disengaged and struggled to score in the final period.
It was almost as if finding out that there was no help coming because Arturas Karnisovas may not know what he’s doing bummed them out.
The top of this Bulls roster is still quite talented and can put up a reasonable fight against opponents on most nights, but the team’s lack of three-point shooting, perimeter defense or rim protection is just not going to put them to succeed consistently. I think the opposite of Karnisovas: with the season now effectively doomed, I assume the team may play even less enthusiastically down the home stretch.
But there is some schedule luck that will favor even a listless team like the Bulls. The Cavs played late last night in New Orleans, securing a 118-107 win last night over the Pelicans.
DeMar DeRozan (right hip soreness), Alex Caruso (left midfoot soreness), and Patrick Williams (right ankle sprain) are all probable this evening.
The Cavs are mostly healthy. Dylan Windler (who’s missed the whole season with an ankle injury) is questionable.
7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago.