My apologies to Cleveland Cavalier fans, but tonight's game feels like the day after a big house party. There are red plastic cups stacked around the house, everyone is sleeping in, and all you can think about is how good last night went.
With the magic number to clinch the Eastern Conference down to one and Chicago on the second night of a back-to-back, the conditions are just right for a flat performance. Not that it should matter, as the Cavaliers are one of the two worst teams in the NBA. But as the Bulls look towards the playoffs and the Indiana Pacers, coach Tom Thibodeau should shorten his starters' minutes in these last few regular season games.
That means we'll see a lot of the Bulls' bench mob against Cleveland, or should at least after 39 minutes for Rose and 36 and a karate kick to the face for Deng against Boston.
Joakim Noah's status is unknown as he continues to recover from an ankle injury. He played 23 minutes last night and was seen favoring the ankle on the bench several times. Against an inferior opponent in a game with so little short-term importance, it would not be surprising for Noah to get the game off entirely. Perhaps it will provide Omer Asik with an opportunity to shake off the rust, having played less than six minutes in each of the last two games.
Fun fact: The Bulls trump the Cavaliers in every major statistical category, except for free throw percentage, where they are .005 worse. Can't win 'em all, I suppose.
Cavaliers To Watch For
Ugh. The Cavs lineup is simply rough. Baron Davis, banished from his hometown of Los Angeles to the land of Cleve, is playing good basketball of when he's not nursing a bum knee. No word on how bum his knee will be tonight. J.J. Hickson is one of the team's few bright spots, with seven double-doubles in his last nine games.
Bulls To Watch For
Look for an extended lineup, with up to ten players playing significant minutes. Asik, Rasual Butler and Brian Scalabrine are all possibilites, supposing the Bulls eventually pull away as expected. Rose needs to clean up his outside shot, which has flattened out the last few weeks And Carlos Boozer is still looking for his first complete game since his ankle injury, although he has looked much better in recent games.
If the Bulls' do win, they will clinch their first Eastern Conference crown since 1998 and would be one game away from an unfathomable 60-win season.
Tip off at Quicken Loans Arena is at 6:30 CDT. WGN (Chicago only) has the call.
Follow Zachary Lee on Twitter @rightfieldsucks