Chicago (27-25) at Cleveland (38-14)
When: Thursday, February 18th 2016
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Time: 8:05 ET | TV: TNT
The Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers open the second half of the season Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena. The Bulls limped into the All-Star Break by losing six of their last seven games which included a very long road trip against mainly Western Conference opponents. The Bulls have fallen all the way to the seventh-seed in the East, just one game clear of Detroit (9th). Chicago has two All-Stars in Jimmy Butler (22.4 points) and Pau Gasol (10.9 rebounds), and a former league MVP in Derrick Rose, but the Bulls had a very disappointing first half. The bright spot is that they are 2-0 against the Cavaliers including a 96-83 whipping on January 23rd in Cleveland. Butler is battling a knee strain and will not play tonight and neither will forward Nikola Mirotic (appendix). The Bulls are ranked second in the league at defensive field-goal percentage (43.1%), but allow 101.9 points a game (17th). Shooting the ball effectively has been a problem for the offense as they rank 27th in the NBA at 43.5%. Chicago ended the first half by getting throttled at home to Atlanta 113-90. The Bulls will be home for three-straight after tonight including hosting the Toronto Raptors Friday night.
Cleveland ended the first half with three consecutive impressive victories over the sub-par Western Conference teams. They scored 120 points in each of the last two games against the Lakers and Kings. Cleveland has been involved in some trade discussions this week as the deadline is Thursday afternoon. Any moves the Cavaliers do make will be to defeat the Spurs or Warriors in the Finals. Even with the current squad that they have, Cleveland should easily win the Eastern Conference Championship. I’m not worried about the Raptors. Cleveland’s experience will win out if they face each other. The Cavs offense has been explosive since Tyronn Lue took over on January 23rd scoring over 100 points in every game but three. The return of Kyrie Irving has also helped and the point guard ended the first half averaging 32 points a game on 59.1% shooting in the last three. Kevin Love’s offensive game has also seen improvement with the new coach, but he’s battling a shoulder contusion and is probable for tonight’s contest.
Tonight’s Fantasy Picks: Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, Taj Gibson
Clearly Cleveland is the better team, but you can’t ignore the 2-0 record the Bulls have on them this season. The line seems a little high for me despite Butler being out. I think Rose steps up and keeps it close.
Pick: Bulls +11.5