Two of the Eastern Conference’s high-profile teams match up today as the Chicago Bulls visit the Cleveland Cavaliers (8pm ET Tuesday on ESPN).
This season, there’s a decent chance these squads end up at the opposite ends of the conference. Cleveland restructured its roster in the offseason and should be the favorite to win their fourth Eastern Conference championship, while the Bulls gutted their team in a complete rebuild and are now one of the worst teams in the league. However, the Cavaliers are 0-3 in the preseason so far, and the Bulls are 2-2.
The Cavaliers will play all their regulars including LeBron James, who had been dealing with a minor ankle injury.
How can Chicago contend with a talented Cleveland squad on the road? This preview will point out some key ways that could happen, then make some predictions and picks on the betting lines for tonight’s game.
Can the Bulls Contain an Explosive Cavs Frontcourt?
The Bulls have many weaknesses as a team — one of the notable ones is frontcourt defense. The quartet of Nikola Mirotic, Robin Lopez, Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis isn’t scaring away the league’s top 4s and 5s.
Cleveland will certainly test them, though. LeBron James will relentlessly attack the paint, Kevin Love will score outside and inside and Jae Crowder will also get in on the scoring action.
Chicago’s bigs will have to be locked in throughout the game, blocking off the paint and contesting inside shots well. Unfortunately, it might not matter, despite their best efforts.
How Many Minutes Will the Cavs’ Regulars Play?
It’s obvious which of these teams is taking the preseason more seriously than the other. Chicago has been keeping a pretty regular rotation so far, putting its starters in starting roles and playing them more than the bench players, for the most part. Meanwhile, the Cavs didn’t play any of their top eight rotation players in their most recent preseason game. In one of the other contests, none of their starters played more than 15 minutes.
Cleveland approaches Tuesday’s contest with essentially a full deck, but that might not mean too much if the regulars’ minutes are severely limited. On the other hand, we can be quite certain that the Bulls will play their regular rotation and give them similar minutes to what they will get in the regular season.
Will Rookie Lauri Markkanen Shake Off the Effects of Back Spasms and Rookie Jitters?
Few teams will rely on their top rookie more than the Bulls will rely on Markkanen. The 20-year-old sharp-shooting big man will play a big role in his first year for the rebuilding Bulls.
Markkanen made his preseason debut on Sunday after returning from some back spasms. His performance was quite uninspiring – he finished with four points, three rebounds and an assists on 1-of-9 shooting (0-of-6 from three) in 15 minutes of action.
We saw last month at the EuroBasket tournament that Markkanen is capable of exploding against professional competition. His ability to stretch the floor and catch fire from three-point range can singlehandedly change his team’s offensive fortunes. Especially if the Bulls have trouble handling the Cavs’ frontcourt players, Markkanen’s shooting and his assistance with floor spacing can help close the gap.
Our Preview’s Bulls vs. Cavs Betting Picks & Predictions
This will be the first game of the season for LeBron James in front of his home crowd. With a game off to rest to re-focus, Cleveland’s regulars will be ready to roll and dominate, giving the team its first preseason win in a blowout.
- There are almost no American-friendly sports betting sites that have odds available for the preseason, but 5Dimes has the Cavaliers as a 9-point favorite. Cleveland may not play its regular players huge minutes, but the stars will set the tone early and put this one out of reach. So bet on the Cavs -9pts @ -120 with 5Dimes.
- The Cavaliers are an offensive-minded team that became even more offensive-minded during the offseason. They’ll let their scoring punch set the tone early in this game, getting them a big lead. The Bulls will have no choice but the pick up the pace to catch up. Bet the over 206.5pts @ -120, again with 5Dimes, the only firm brave enough to offer betting odds right now.