Cleveland Cavaliers (18-38) vs. Chicago Bulls (32-24) Preview

February 23, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters (3) shoots over Orlando Magic forward Kyle O

Will Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving ever get the chance to match up? Although Rose is still not satisfied with where he is at recovery wise, Irving will also be missing his first game since December 8. The All-Star point guard is battling a hyperextended right knee and is also questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors according to The Plain Dealer. That means journeyman Shaun Livingston will be starting for the ailing Irving, who is listed as day-to-day. The Chicago Bulls have been on sort of a slump lately, so this matchup with Irving sitting out couldn’t have come at a better time for the Windy City warriors:

Opponent’s Blog: Pippen Ain’t Easy

Venue: United Center — Chicago

Tipoff: Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m.

Betting Line: Bulls by -8.5

Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio, NBATV

Where you can listen: WTAM (1100 AM), WFUN (970 AM)

The Bulls are caught in a rut. Out of their last 11 games, they have lost seven of them. This includes their most recent game in which they put on one of the worst offensive performances in some time. If losing by 30 points to the Oklahoma City Thunder wasn’t bad enough, the Bulls managed to shoot 29.1 percent from the field.

For the Cavaliers, catching a team that they haven’t beaten in the last 11 tries on a day like today would have been grand if only Irving were in the lineup. Even though the Chicago defense is known for giving the reigning Rookie of the Year troubles, Cleveland’s star has grown a lot since the last time these two teams met on Jan. 7. But with the way that Dion Waiters has been playing in the month of February, an outburst from the No. 4 overall pick may be enough to guide the Cavs past a team in the midst of confusion.

In the last matchup Waiters had 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting off the bench. The matter of fact that Waiters was on the bench in that contest should be into context how much the rookie shooting guard has grown. In 10 February games Dion is shooting 50.9 percent from the field and averaging 14.1 points. In Cleveland’s losing effort against the Miami Heat, the former Syracuse sixth man scored 26 points and 11-of-17 shooting against a stingy Miami defense.

While Livingston will come in as a facilitator off the bench and Waiters will hopefully continue selecting smart shots, the problems will mostly stem from down low. Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah make up one of the best frontcourts in the league. They’re gritty down low, fight for every last rebound and like to pick on the young guys. Until right before the All-Star break, Tyler Zeller had been playing the most ineffective basketball of his rookie season. Defenders were leaving him with zero shots and he was being boxed out to perfection.

Tristan Thompson will have to come in and help Zeller when necessary. The offensive boards will need to be hit on hard all night because one basket could make a difference against the struggling Chicago offense.

With Irving out, things do look bleak. This may be Dion’s chance to make a statement game by his lonesome.

Topics: Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller

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