As first night openings go, the Cleveland Cavaliers were miles off a five star review with their shock loss to New York. Now, they will try to avoid fluffing their lines again when they visit the Chicago Bulls tonight.
The defeat to the Knicks, amid the gargantuan hype on the return of LeBron James after his four-year exile in Miami, summed up a lot about what the Cavs could be – and also what they presently are.
Defensively, it’s still very much a work in progress for coach David Blatt and his new-look roster with even James giving up vital scores down the final stretch.
And even though offensively there were moments when their ball-sharing came up trumps, Cleveland still only notched 90 points against the set-to-be-terrible Knicks while committing a flurry of turnovers.
It contrasted from Wednesday when Chicago ripped New York apart for a 104-80 win at Madison Square Garden. And with an extra night’s rest, the Bulls are 1.57 to take victory in their home opener and a very tempting -4.5 on the handicap at 1.97.
In their favour is a defence which has picked up where it left off last season. They held the Knicks to just 36.5 per cent and Tom Thibodeau can take heart from the way his side held James to just 18.3 points per game last year, the lowest from any opponent in the NBA.
Pau Gasol got off to a bright start to his career in Chicago with 21 points, and even though Derrick Rose had just 13, he was still hugely effective.
With these two in the Central Division, the Cavs are 1.60 to top that mini-league with the Bulls 2.45. We might get some insight this evening how that rivalry shapes up but it’s clear Cleveland are going to need a little time to truly get their lines down pat.
Best bet: Go under 187.5 total points in Bulls-Cavaliers at 2.50