Once, this game would have been a scintillating matchup of elite, young point guards. Kyrie Irving facing off with Derrick Rose is appointment viewing under almost any circumstances.
And yet, here we are.
Kyrie is still around. He scored 29 points in the Cleveland Cavaliers' win over the Washington WIzards. But, as we all know, Derrick is still a ways away from returning.
The Cavs have some solid players these days and they're certainly not the punchline they were back in 2010-11. They might not make the playoffs, but still. They're not terrible anymore. Rookie Dion Waiters had 17 points in his debut, while 2011 fourth overall pick Tristan Thompson notched a double-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Anderson Varejao continues to be one of the most underrated players in the league after notching 9 points, 23 rebounds — 12 offensive — and 9 assists. While we may not get Kyrie v. Derrick, we will get Joakim Noah v. Varejao, which should be fascinating.
The Bulls match up pretty well with the Cavs, relatively speaking. Noah and Varejao are mostly a wash on paper, and Luol Deng and Kyrie Irving hold major advantages over their counterparts, Alonzo Gee and Kirk Hinrich, respectively. Rip Hamilton probably enjoys a slight edge over Waiters as of this moment, but that's probably a wash. Carlos Boozer gets the edge over Thompson, and neither bench is particularly good. Slight edge to the Bulls there.
While the Noah/Varejao battle will be fascinating and probably very important to the result, the Bulls need to make sure Irving stays in check. If he goes off, they're probably screwed. It's up to Hinrich, who is regarded as a solid defender, to do what he can on the perimeter to keep Kyrie out of the paint. On offense, Hinrich figures to spend a lot of time running around screens as he did in the opener. If he can wear Irving out that way, the Bulls defense will be better for it.
Probable Starting Fives
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