We worked out way to a perfect 5-0 run on Tuesday night, which is fantastic considering going undefeated on a 12-game Wednesday would have been next to impossible. Yours truly was not able to make it to Wednesday’s picks, but we’ll pick things back up going into the break with a fantastic Eastern Conference showdown between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls.
Not only is this contest riddled with big names (although Kevin Love could miss this one due to an eye abrasion), it’s also a game between the two best teams in the East’s Central division. Chicago currently is in the lead with a nice 33-20 record, while the Cavs have used a 9-1 run in their past 10 games to pull just one game behind the Bulls at 32-21. With a Cavs win tonight, these teams pull into a total tie (although the Cavs would technically be in first) with one more showdown to go in April. Let’s take a close look at tonight’s matchup and see who should come away with the win:
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Chicago Bulls
Both of the previous meetings between these two teams have been mostly about offense and have ended with wins for the Cavaliers. The third clash could post similar results, especially with star shooting guard Jimmy Butler sitting this one out for Chicago. That should put added pressure on Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol for the Bulls, and if they aren’t on top of their game in this matchup, they could easily drop down to 0-3 in this season series with the Cavaliers.
Cleveland has slowly developed into a legit title contender and bypassing the Bulls completely would be just one step closer to declaring themselves the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Regardless of whether or not Kevin Love (eye) is a full go, we can probably expect the Cavs to bring their run and gun offense to the United Center, as well as their improved defense. In fact, if Love is out, Cleveland’s defense would only get better with Tristan Thompson getting extra run.
Jimmy Butler’s absence is ultimately going to be the biggest key to this game. He couldn’t help the Bulls beat the Cavs in two previous outings, and he won’t be here to do it in the third try. More specifically, he won’t be around to try to slow down LeBron James and his 20+ points per game also won’t be around to help Chicago’s offense. That is going to force Rose into added pressure and mistakes, and the same can be said for Gasol, who is already a defensive liability and at least at times arguably a black hole on offense.
Cleveland has had the upper hand to this point and it looks like they’re molding into the far better team right before our eyes. A third win over the Bulls on the year may be all that’s left to convince us who is going to take the Central division. Expect a lot of points, but with no Butler, Cleveland’s defense should end up providing the edge, instead of Chicago’s.
Pick: Cavaliers 104, Bulls 99