On Monday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers took to the road to take on the Detroit Pistons. Despite being down for much of the game, the Cavaliers were able to pull the score close in the end, but ended up falling once again by 10, 89-79.
As it has been since Kyrie Irving was injured, Anderson Varejao was the leader for Cleveland, both emotionally and statistically. The big Brazilian continued to be the spearhead of almost everything the Cavaliers did successfully, and the team struggled before he got going. He finished the game with 17 points and 18 rebounds, for yet another double-double.
While the Pistons have been playing better of late, the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland's opponent tonight at Quicken Loans Arena, should be a stiffer test for the Cavaliers. While the Bulls are in an unfamiliar position this season, currently sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference, their 8-8 record is respectable considering they are also without their superstar point guard in Derrick Rose, who tore his ACL in the first game of the NBA Playoffs last season.
They have been able to stay at .500 this season with the help of some of their other stars. Luol Deng, an all-star last year, Richard Hamilton, and Carlos Boozers, both former all-stars, are leading the team in points per game, stepping up to take over some of Rose's production. Joakim Noah has also played well for them, averaging 13 points and just under six rebounds per game. Kirk Hinrich, who returned to Chicago this summer, has played the point guard position decently enough in Rose's absence.
While this team will hope Rose will return to his usual form when he finally does come back, the current crop of players are doing the job to keep the Bulls in contention,which is really all they need to do right now.
This is not to say it is going to be easy for Cleveland tonight, despite being at home. In Detroit, the Cavaliers were exploited early and often, and dug themselves too much of hole to come back from. If they think they can play like that against a Rose-less Chicago team, they are off their rocker.
The one thing Cleveland does have going for them is the Bulls are on the second of a back-to-back. Last night, they lost to the Indiana Pacers 80-76 in Chicago after winning their previous two games. The Pacers were able to force 19 turnovers and control the paint, two things Cleveland will have to do.
Cavaliers' fans will also likely be happy to see that Hamilton did not play, due to injury, but not pleased that Dion Waiters' sprained ankle will keep him out of the second straight game.
It will be a game that will need a solid effort and consistent energy from start to finish. Varejao will be key, as he can bring much of the presence in the paint that Cleveland will need. Someone else for the Cavaliers will need to step up the scoring, as Andy will not be able to do it all himself. The Bulls were susceptible to forward Paul George, who score 34 points for Indiana but had struggled in his previous games. The coaching staff may look at that as a place to go for scoring, so keep an eye on Alonzo Gee.
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