Cavaliers-Bulls Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 06, 2013
Things didn't go as planned for the Chicago Bulls the last time they faced one of the league's worst teams at home. After sweeping a two-game trip in Florida, the Bulls are hoping to carry over their road success Monday night when they try for their 11th straight win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the Bulls (18-13) have the best road record in the Eastern Conference at 9-5, they're only 9-8 at the United Center. They've dropped two of three at home, including a 91-81 loss last Monday that ended Charlotte's 18-game losing streak. Chicago has shot a combined 34.4 percent from their field in its last two home games, but improved its offensive efficiency by shooting 45.9 percent in consecutive wins at Orlando and Miami. "We haven't been playing great basketball and this is probably our biggest win of the year against the defending champs," center Joakim Noah said after the 96-89 win over the Heat on Friday. "It feels good.'' Former Cavalier Carlos Boozer provided the team with a lift, scoring 58 points on 25-of-39 shooting and pulling down 23 rebounds in the two road games. While Luol Deng finished with a season-low six points on 2-of-9 shooting Friday, he appears likely to bounce back against the Cavaliers. Deng has averaged 20.3 points while shooting 62.5 percent from the field in his last four games in the series, including a 22-point effort in a 95-85 win at Cleveland on Dec. 5. The Bulls have done a better job of getting to the foul line lately, averaging 24.5 free-throw attempts in their last two contests after averaging 16.0 in their previous four. They'll try to stay aggressive against a Cleveland team that allows teams to get to the line 25.3 times per game - among the most in the league - and has seen opponents average 31.5 attempts in their last four. With a pair of double-digit victories in Cleveland this season, Chicago has won 10 straight over the Cavaliers - the last nine by an average of 18.8 points since LeBron James left for Miami. Cleveland (8-27) was without Kyrie Irving in last month's loss because of a broken finger, but having the reigning rookie of the year didn't help in a 115-86 defeat Nov. 2. That's one of two games in which Irving, who had 15 points, was available in the five times the Cavaliers have faced the Bulls since last season, but Irving has looked quite healthy after scoring 63 points in his last two contests. Irving, however, is focused on taking better care of the ball after committing a career-high eight turnovers in a 112-104 loss to Houston on Saturday. "I take full responsibility,'' said Irving, who gave it away three times in the fourth quarter. "That's the difference in the game right there.'' The Cavaliers have lost four of their last five, but have won three of four on the road by beating league-worst Washington on Dec. 26 and Charlotte on Friday night. Tristan Thompson has started to come on strong, finishing with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds on Saturday for his seventh double-double in nine games. Cleveland, though, is expected to be without center Anderson Varejao for the 10th straight game due to a bruised right knee. Varejao, the NBA's leading rebounder (14.4 per game), is targeting a return Wednesday when the Cavaliers host Atlanta. Cleveland has reached 100 points in three of its last four games, but the Bulls have limited the Cavaliers to just 83.0 points on 37.4 percent shooting during the nine games since James left.
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