If the Cavs have any play-in hopes, they better win this one.
The Cavs play host to the Bulls on Wednesday night as they look to snap a three-game losing streak and revive any hope of reaching the play-in tournament that the organization may have previously had.
Things haven’t been great lately for Cleveland. Since the last win, the Cavs have been victims to Steph Curry’s white hot shooting streak that he continues on, a loss to a Bulls team minus its best player, and Monday night’s loss to Detroit, which has to rank among the worst of the season for the Cavs, if not the worst.
Thanks to the loss to Detroit, things can’t really get that much worse on Wednesday night for the Cavs, which at least can be spun into somewhat of a positive. It can get worse, of course, but let’s not think about that. Let’s just pretend Monday was rock bottom and that they can only go up from here.
The recent losing streak has essentially dashed any hopes the Cavs had of making their way into the play-in tournament, which can be both good or bad news, depending on your point of view. The bad news, obviously, being that the Cavs are further away from anything resembling playoff basketball. The good news is that with every loss, the chances of landing a franchise-changing talent in the 2021 NBA Draft increases by a little bit.
As for Wednesday against the Bulls, it’s a game that Chicago really needs to win if its going to continue to keep pace in the Eastern Conference play-in race, and it’s a game that the Cavs cannot afford to lose if they’d like to hang on to any glimmer of hope of finishing in 10th.
What’s been good
We know the record hasn’t been good, but there certainly are reasons to be optimistic about this team, specifically Darius Garland. In his last seven games he’s averaged 22.7 points and 7.4 assists per game on 48%/40.7%/83.3% shooting splits. This has been a weird year in so many regards, but it’s undeniable that Garland has taken a pretty significant step forward in his development this year, and that alone is a huge victory for what the Cavs hope the future can be.
What’s been bad
The game against Detroit was bad enough that it could take up the entire preview. Losing a game to a team that’s not trying to win games and only has seven players available is a real rough pill to swallow, but I promise this is the last time I’m going to mention it.
As for the Bulls, Zach LaVine has missed the last three games for Chicago after he was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Since trading for Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls haven’t been able to see much of their All-Star pairing on the court together.
Matchup to watch
As disappointing as it is that we won’t get to see Isaac Okoro defend LaVine in this one, the interior matchup between Jarrett Allen and Vucevic should be an exciting one. Last week when these two teams squared off, Vucevic had his way with the Cavs to the tune of 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting. If Cleveland is going to find a way to win this one, stopping Chicago’s new big man is going to be the key. If someone else beats them, so be it, but forcing that issue needs to be part of the plan.
Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine – NBA health and safety protocols, OUT; Troy Brown Jr. – Left ankle sprain, OUT
Cleveland Cavaliers: Dylan Windler – Left knee soreness, OUT; Damyean Dotson – Left knee soreness, OUT
How to watch
Bally Sports Ohio, tip-off set for 7:10 p.m.