Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Chicago Bulls (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-2 SU, 2-3 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Thursday, November 5, 2009, Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio. TV: TNT
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Bulls +11/Cavaliers -11
Over/Under: 187.5

The Shaquille O’Neal era in Cleveland started off slow with two straight losses to open the season. But the Cavaliers are back on the right track with three straight wins. They will try to make it four straight and stay above .500 when they host the Chicago Bulls.

The Cavs are coming off a 102-90 home win over the Wizards in which Washington led by four at halftime. The Cavs outscored the Wizards 52-36 in the second half to get the win. LeBron James scored 27 points but only scored two points in the fourth quarter. He added eight rebounds and six assists. Shaq chipped in with 21 points and eight rebounds.

The Bulls are coming off an 83-81 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Both teams shot a hair under 40 percent from the field. The Bulls outrebounded the Bucks 53-44, but Chicago turned the ball over 18 times. The Bulls have been doing a nice job rebounding the ball despite not having any dominant big men. Luol Deng proved he is 100 percent back from injury, totaling 24 points and 20 rebounds in the win. Derrick Rose had 16 points and five assists, and Joakim Noah had four points and 12 rebounds.

Deng is leading the team in scoring with 17.8 points per game and in rebounding with 10.5 per game. His return gives the Bulls a huge boost on both ends of the court. His size and versatility allows him to defend bigger wings like LeBron, and his offensive skills give the Bulls another dangerous option to score some points. He can post up down low or he can shoot from outside. Rose hasn’t gotten off to a terrific start. He’s averaging 11.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. Salmons and Hinrich are solid role players at shooting guard. Hinrich provides a 3-point threat, while Salmons has the size to score in the lane but his jumper has drastically improved over the last couple years. Noah, Tyrus Thomas and Brad Miller are solid big men who will work hard on both ends of the court, but none of them are dangerous offensive threats.

Thus far, LeBron is still LeBron. Through five games, he is averaging 25.2 points, 8.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game. Shaq hasn’t been as valuable as expected so far. Other than the 21 points he scored against the Wizards, he’s averaging only nine points per game. With Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Delonte West, Daniel Gibson and Jamario Moon, the Cavs have a lot of solid guards and wings that can knock down open jumpers. The weakness for the Cavs is at power forward, where Anderson Varejao is averaging eight points and 7.8 rebounds per game, but the Cavs have no depth at that position.

It’s early in the season, but the winner of this game will hold first place in the Central Division. The Bulls big men have held their own this year and last year against most frontcourts. Brad Miller has a lot of experience guarding Shaq from his days with the Sacramento Kings, so the matchups down low should be fairly even. Of course, LeBron has the edge on anyone, but Deng can match up well with him. The Bulls have the edge in the backcourt, as Rose has a size advantage on Williams and Salmons has a size and advantage over Gibson and West. Parker matches up size-wise with Salmons, but Salmons has the scoring edge. Neither of these two teams has been particularly impressive thus far, so it’s easy to see either team win this game. Last season, the Cavs were dominant at home but they haven’t been yet this season.

The Cavs won three of the four matchups with the Bulls last season, all by at least nine points. The Bulls won the last of the four games, 102-93 in Chicago. The Cavs won the two games in Cleveland by a combined 39 points. The last four games for the Cavs have all gone under. Three of the four Bulls games have gone under. The Bulls are 0-3 ATS in their last three games.

Ryno’s Pick: The Cavs were an elite team last season and will continue to be this season. But it’s early in the season right now and both teams are still trying to find their groove. Both teams have struggled so far. Not only are both teams struggling on offense, but the Cavs are one of the best defensive teams. The Bulls should be able to come within 11 points of the Cavs. The Bulls match up well at every position and could even win this game. But with the Cavs going under in their last four games and the Bulls going under in three of their four games this season, expect a low scoring game. Take the under of 187.5.