The Bulls return home after taking on the Philadelphia 76ers last night in Philly to catch up with their longtime Central Division rivals, the Cleveland Cavaliers, for the first time at the United Center. The two squads, however, did go head-to-head on October 30th in Cleveland where, despite four of the five Bulls starters posting 15-plus points, the Cavs still came away with a 117-111 victory.
Cleveland power forward Kevin Love enjoyed a strong, all-around game, with 17 points, 20 rebounds and six assists, while teammate Tristan Thompson also notched a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds, to go along with five blocks. Lauri Markkanen was Chicago's most productive player with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a block. Zach LaVine also posted 16 points.
The game was a tight, back-and-forth affair most of the way, but then early in the fourth quarter, with Chicago leading 90-89, the Cavs got hot and went on a 13-4 run to go up 102-94, and never had to look back.
In notching 117 points on the night, Cleveland shot 41-of-78 (.526) from the field, 10-of-24 (.417) from behind the 3-point arc and 25-of-31 (.806) from the charity stripe. The Bulls, on the other hand, were 39-for-90 (.433) from the field, 14-for-39 (.359) from behind the arc and 19-for-23 (.826) from the stripe. The Cavs also outrebounded Chicago, 47-32 and controlled the paint, outscoring the Bulls 58-46 under the basket.
For Chicago to exact revenge tonight they're going to have to produce a stellar effort at both ends of the floor. Tonight, is the second half of a back-to-back set for both the Bulls and Cavaliers, thus tonight's contest could simply come down to a battle of wills as to who wants to win more.
To be effective on offense the Bulls must freely share the ball, swiftly and crisply passing it from player-to-player and from side-to-side in search of an unobstructed outside shot or open driving lane to rim. Also, every player needs to stay engaged. Offensively the ball can't suddenly get stuck in any one player's hands while everyone else stands around and watches. The offense must be free-flowing and unselfish.
Defensively Chicago needs to muster up a hardnosed and focused effort with everyone communicating and staying glued to their man without falling into a trap of constantly fouling.
Collectively, the Bulls must take the floor determined to out-work and out-execute Cleveland in every conceivable way.