NBA Preview: Bulls vs. Cavs, Rose vs. Irving
Nobody has more reason to complain about the shortened schedule more than Chicago, who just had back-to-back days off for the first time after playing an NBA-high 16 games in the first 24 days of the compressed season. During this grueling stretch they have seen some of the effects of playing so many games in so few days with the nagging injuries of MVP Derek Rose.
Rose has been sidelined for three of Chicago’s last five games because of the injury, suffered Jan. 10 at Minnesota. He was sorely missed in Monday’s 102-86 loss to Memphis, which snapped a five-game winning streak, but the Bulls (13-3) didn’t miss a beat without the two-time All-Star in Tuesday’s 118-97 win over Phoenix.
Rose, averaging team highs of 20.8 points and 8.7 assists, finally got some time to rest as he didn’t practice Thursday and is expected to be a game-time decision against the Cavaliers, whom the Bulls held to an average of 83.8 points while sweeping last season’s four-game series.
After a forgettable debut against Toronto, Kyrie Irving is showing why he was the first pick of the draft. The 19-year-old is averaging 21.8 points on 54.8 percent shooting and 5.2 assists in his last six games and has helped Cleveland to a surprising 6-7 start after going 19-63 a year ago.
While Friday night’s meeting between the visiting Bulls and Cavaliers could showcase the reigning league MVP against the early favorite for Rookie of the Year. Cavs head coach Byron Scott would like to see Irving improve his defense and cut down on his turnovers — two areas that could be exposed against the Bulls if the lightning-quick Rose can go.
With or without Rose, the Bulls should take this game by 8 points or more.