LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal and the Cleveland Cavaliers got off to a slow start, dropping their first two games this season. But the team have picked it up since, having rolled off three straight, on an average of 13.3 points a game.
The Bulls come off a shaky performance against Milwaukee which concluded with a two-point win for the Bulls due to the strong play of forward Luol Deng who recorded 24 points and a career-high 20 rebounds.
Second-year point guard Derrick Rose has struggled with both his shot and aggresiveness so far this season. Though much can be blamed on his ankle and three weeks off, the guard has still been able to contribute 30 minutes a night with little to show for. In the late stages of the Milwaukee game, however, the shot was falling and Rose showed a glimpse of the player who was the NBA's top rookie last season. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers, such a performance will be necessary over longer stages, if the Bulls wish to be competitive.
Forward Luol Deng has, after his big performance on tuesday, now had three big games in the four-game old season. Deng's movement and court production has fans looking back at the 2006/2007 season hoping to see the return of the small forward who helped lead the Bulls to the second round of the playoffs. Matching up against James on thursday will be a big test for the 6'9 forward, who on occasion has done a decent job on the superstar in the past.
Excluding Shaquille O'Neal, the Cavaliers made some strong moves over the course of the summer, two of which will be on full display on the wing against the Bulls. Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker provides a lot of depth at the shooting guard and small forward spots, and both can run alongside James for extended periods of time if needed. Throw in fourth-year guard Daniel Gibson along with starting point guard Maurice Williams, and the Cavaliers will have a strong offensive wing unit to run the show. Given the defensive strides made by Chicago this season, this match-up could play a key part for the Bulls' success.
Power forward Tyrus Thomas was originally listed as a no-go for the Cavaliers, but has made the trip to Cleveland in hope of playing,