The Chicago Bulls enter the month of December with a record of 10-7 (3rd in the Eastern Conference) after their 96-90 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night in their first game back at the United Center since their 6-game circus road trip.
The Bulls have their toughest test staring them in the eyes, as they prepare to take on Eastern Conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers (13-4) for the 1st time this season tonight.
While there are interesting storylines to follow like the health of Doug McDermott, who is still battling a concussion and the rarely existent defense and antics of Cavs guard J.R. Smith, these are the most intriguing storylines for the Bulls heading into their faceoff with Cleveland at the UC.
Will the Bulls be able to stop Kevin Love?
Admittedly, everyone knows that Kevin Love isn’t the most intimidating player on the Cavs roster. That would be LeBron. Kevin Love isn’t counted on to be the main facilitator or pace/tone setter for their games. That would be Kyrie. So, you may be asking yourself, if Love isn’t the first or second option for the Cavs, why do I think it is so important for the Bulls to stop him? Well, it’s quite simple. HE’S ON A ROLE (as of late). Just 9 days ago, he set an NBA record when he scored 34 of his 40 points in the 1st quarter against the Trail Blazers, most of which came by way of 8 three pointers. He followed that performance up with two huge double-doubles. Out of the 16 games Cleveland has played this year, he leads the team in rebounds and only has four such games where he is under double digits in the rebound column. Having him on the court is nerve-wrecking enough, being that he’s proven to be dominant whenever he chooses, but if he gets off to a hot start and is knocking down that long-range shot, the Bulls are going to be in for a long night.
Will the bench show up?
The Bulls bench is battling injury. The Bulls bench can’t score points. The Bulls bench is virtually worthless right now. With Doug McDermott battling a concussion and Michael Carter-Williams dealing with his own injuries, the Bulls don’t really have someone who they can rely on. Mirotic and Canaan have both shown flashes of good play this season, but haven’t had many consistent outings. Beyond those two, the production is nonexistent. No one outside of Mirotice and Canaan (that are active) are averaging 5 points and only two players are getting double digit minutes (Portis and Grant.) The Bulls will need a team effort to pull out a win against the Cavs, which means that the rest of the roster will have to get their act together.
Will Wade be a difference maker?
Coming into this game, there has been a ton of talk about Wade facing off against his good friend LeBron. There is also anticipation to see LeBron decked out in full Cubs’ attire following their World Series wager. Well, we aren’t here to talk about friendship. THIS IS WAR. Ok, maybe not 100%, but it’s close enough. With the bench in as dire of times as they are right now, the Bulls can’t depend on Jimmy Butler to carry the load against the Cavs alone. That’s where Wade comes in. The Bulls weren’t expected to be as good as they currently are coming into the season, but the addition of Wade has benefited the team on and off the court as well as mentally. He gives this team composure and makes sure they’re on the same page. For the season he’s averaging close to 20 ppg in just over 30 mpg, but we’ll need him to bring his entire game with him-and maybe guard LeBron throughout the game- if the Bulls stand a chance in their biggest game of the season so far.