Chicago Bulls (7-9 SU, 5-10-1 ATS) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-5 SU, 9-9 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Friday, December 4, 2009, Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Wagering Odds: Bulls +12.5/Cavaliers -12.5
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The Chicago Bulls visit the Cleveland Cavaliers in a Central Division battle Friday night on ESPN.
The Cavaliers hold a 3.5-game lead over the Bucks and a five-game lead over the Bulls in the division standings. These two teams met on November 5 in Cleveland and the Bulls walked away with an 86-85 victory. Both teams had five players score in double digits. LeBron James had 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Shaquille O’Neal had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Luol Deng led the Bulls with 15 points. Joakim Noah had seven points and 11 rebounds. The Bulls only committed six turnovers. LeBron had a chance to win the game in the final seconds but he couldn’t get a shot off as he drove to the basket and ran into Noah and Deng.
The Cavs lost to the Bobcats on Friday, 94-87. Since then, they’ve won their last two games over the Mavericks and Suns. The 107-90 win over the Suns on Wednesday was particularly impressive. They held the Suns to 40 percent shooting and out-rebounded the Suns, 51-41. Seven different Cavs players scored in double digits. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who broke the Cavs team record for games played, came off the bench and scored a team-high 14 points. LeBron had 12 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists. Shaq had 12 points and nine rebounds.
LeBron is averaging 28.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game this season. Mo Williams is second on the team in scoring with 17.4 points per game. The Cavs also have many other capable shooters for LeBron and Williams to pass to, including Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson, Jamario Moon and Delonte West. Down low, the Cavs have Shaq, Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson. Shaq isn’t the same Shaq he was 10 years ago, but he is having a decent year with 11.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
The Bulls have not been playing well at all lately. A six-game road trip started off well with a win at Sacramento on November 17. But the Bulls proceeded to lose their next five games. The finally came back home on Wednesday and ended their losing streak with a 92-85 win over the Pistons. John Salmons led the Bulls with 22 points. Derrick Rose had 19 points and six assists. Noah had seven points and 14 rebounds, and off the bench Brad Miller had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Deng leads the Bulls in scoring with 18.1 points per game and is second in rebounding with 8.5 per game. The return of Deng, who was injured for much of last season, has been a key for the Bulls. Rose hasn’t quite met expectations yet this season after winning Rookie of the Year last season. He is averaging 15.8 points and 5.2 assists per game. The Bulls need Rose to improve his numbers if they are going to compete for a playoff spot. Salmons has been solid with 14.7 points per game, and Noah has been dominant on the boards with 12.2 rebounds per game to go along with his 11.2 points per game.
These two teams played rather evenly last time they met. It was a defensive battle, as neither team even reached 90 points. This time around, both teams need to do a better job executing on offense to get easier shots. The Cavs can’t just isolate LeBron every time down the court. Deng is a solid defender and even if LeBron gets by Deng, Miller and Noah will be waiting for him in the paint. If LeBron is able to get into the paint and kick it out to the perimeter, Williams and the rest of the many shooters on the Cavs have to knock down open jumpers in rhythm. For the Bulls, Rose has to get his teammates going. He needs to score some points when he has to and also run the offense and find open teammates. Salmons and Deng are not great play-makers by themselves. Rose has to be the play-maker and get easy shots for his teammates.
The Bulls are 1-4-1 ATS in their last six games and 1-4 ATS in their last five road games. The total has gone under in 10 of Chicago’s last 14 games. The Cavs are 2-4 ATS in their last six home games. The total has gone under in four of their last six games.
Ryno’s Pick: In early November, the Bulls and Cavs met in Cleveland and the Bulls got a one-point victory. The Cavs are playing better right now and the Bulls have struggled lately. But these are still the same teams. The Bulls know how big of a win this would be going forward, so they will be playing hard. The Bulls will keep it close and give themselves an opportunity to win the game down the stretch. Take the Bulls +12.5.