The Cleveland Cavaliers will start a four-game road trip when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.
Cleveland is coming off a 119-105 home loss against the Sacramento Kings on Monday. It marked the sixth defeat in the past eight games for the Cavaliers, who are in danger of missing the playoffs for the third season in a row.
Meanwhile, Chicago also is looking to bounce back after a 120-95 loss at home against the Utah Jazz on Monday. The Bulls have lost seven of their past 11 games.
Both teams are trying to stay focused as the NBA trade deadline approaches one day after their matchup.
“Sometimes you put your cards on the table, a team can go to another team and say, ‘Listen, I’ve got this on the table,'” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “So right now it’s a feeling-out stage. Everybody is talking, and as we get closer to (Thursday), that’s when things start to become a little more solidified and a little more serious.”
Cleveland is led by Collin Sexton, who is averaging 24 points per game on 47.8 percent shooting this season. Sexton also has contributed 4.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per contest.
Darius Garland also provides the Cavaliers with a strong option in the backcourt, while Jarrett Allen has moved into a showcase role in the frontcourt as the team looks to move veteran big man Andre Drummond. Garland is averaging 16.4 points and 5.8 assists, and Allen is averaging 13.6 points and 9.7 rebounds.
Drummond’s absence also has allowed JaVale McGee to earn more playing time in the paint. The veteran is averaging 8.0 points and 5.2 rebounds while providing tips to his younger teammates.
“He’s always talking about, ‘On a winning team, this would happen,'” Sexton said. “So we all pretty much listen to him because that’s what we want to do. We want to be winners, and we want to get to that point. So he’s a huge part of all of our development. He’s been helping (Allen) tremendously, and they’re really close together.
“It’s good to have him on the bench, and it’s good to have him in the locker room because he’s an amazing locker-room person.”
For the Bulls, Zach LaVine ranks first with 28.2 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting. He also has connected on 43.7 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Lauri Markkanen (17.7 points per game), Coby White (15.2) and Thaddeus Young (12.2) round out the Bulls’ top four scorers. Wendell Carter Jr. leads the group with 7.8 rebounds per contest to go along with 11 points.
Donovan is hoping for more from Markkanen, White and Carter Jr. against the Cavaliers.
“These are the kinds of games in my opinion that Wendell and Lauri and Coby need to play in — high-level teams,” Donovan said. “I think sometimes their production could be down because of the quality of teams we’re playing against. Hopefully, they can continue to learn and grow and get better in those situations.”
–Field Level Media