Keys to the Game: Bulls at Cavaliers (01.21.18)

In an afternoon matinee the Chicago Bulls (10-36) make their final visit to Northeast Ohio to meet the Cleveland Cavaliers (9-38) at Quicken Loans Arena.

Combined the two teams have managed to win just one game in their past 20, with the Cavs owning that victory, a surprising 101-95 upset of the Los Angeles Lakers (sans LeBron James) a little more than a week ago.

Cleveland is returning home after slogging through a six-game road trip (1-5), while the Bulls make a quick visit before heading back to Chicago to take on Atlanta (Wednesday), the LA Clippers (Friday) and a rematch with the Cavs next Sunday at the United Center.

Chicago won both of the earlier get-togethers with Cleveland, first at the UC and the last here at the Q. In fact, the last time the team met Chicago recorded its largest margin of victory this season with a score of 112-92. The Bulls held Cleveland to just 31 rebounds and 11 assists, while forward Lauri Markkanen led the way for Chicago with 31 points, and Kris Dunn chipped in 17 points and seven assists. Overall, Chicago shot a blistering 55.1% from the field that night, including going 11-of-22 (50%) from three-point range.

As for both the Bulls and Cavs most recent history, Cleveland is coming off a blowout 124-102 road loss at Denver this past Saturday, while at the same time the Bulls fell 117-103 to the Miami Heat in Chicago.

Chicago has been in a serious slump of late having lost 10 straight, while the Cavs have won just a single game in their last 16.

However, there have been a couple of individual bright spots for both teams recently, such as Lauri Markkanen averaging 18.9 points and 7.1 rebounds over his last 13 games, and Bulls’ leading scorer, Zach LaVine (22.8 ppg) dishing six or more assists in three straight.

Also of note is that LaVine is one of only seven players in the NBA this season to post 29 or more 20+ point games. And, as a team, the Bulls have scored 100+ points in eight straight games, Chicago’s longest streak in more than a year.

As for the Cavs, during their latest road trip their bench stepped up its game by contributing an average of 50 points per game. Led by Jordan Clarkson (16.9 ppg), Cleveland’s reserves currently rank fourth in the league in scoring at 44.0 points per night.

Starting center, Ante Zizic (5.9 ppg), also recorded a career-high 23 points against Denver on Saturday. The 22-year old, 6’11” Croatian has posted three straight double-digit scoring games for the first time in his career.

Cavs starting forward Cedi Osman has also averaged 13.1 points and 4.1 rebounds in almost 31 minutes over his last 18 games, while rookie point guard Collin Sexton has scored in double figures 40 times this season, which is tied for most among NBA first-year players.

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