Pregame Dribbles: Cavaliers vs. Bulls

CLEVELAND — A few random dribbles prior to the Cavaliers’ game vs. the Bulls on Wednesday.

1. After losing two straight close games, it’d be nice to see the Cavs (13-12) get this one. If they can take care of business at home and just steal a few on the road the rest of the way, they’ll be playoff-bound.Darius Garland

2. The Bulls, of course, are no joke. With a record of 17-8, they currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference. Like the Cavs, they play with a lot of heart and a belief in what they’re doing.

3. But they enter Wednesday in a difficult situation — with four players being placed in health and safety protocols. The list includes leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, who is having an All-Star year in his first season in Chicago. DeRozan is fourth in the NBA in scoring (26.4 ppg).

4. Coby White, Javonte Green and Matt Thomas are the other Bulls in the protocol. But they still have the likes of Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vucevic. So this is no gimme for the Cavs.

5. That said, the Cavs have a couple of guys who have been playing like All-Stars themselves in Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland. More importantly, they’ve shown if they stick to their principals, they have a shot against anyone.

6. Garland had two 30-plus-point games in a row over the weekend, then was suffocated by the Bucks. You can bet the Bulls saw the film and will try to do the same. Ball is one of the league’s best backcourt defenders. Translation: Someone else from the Cavs backcourt — Isaac Okoro, Ricky Rubio, etc. — will likely need to step up.

7. The Bulls reportedly have also added small forward Stanley Johnson, a former lottery pick and another strong defender. It was the type of low-level veteran free agent pickup I’d like to see the Cavs start making. Though they are hardly desperate at the moment.

8. Cavs forward Dean Wade will indeed return and be available tonight. With Allen, Evan Mobley, former Bull Lauri Markkanen, Kevin Love and Wade, the Cavs have all their size in uniform once again.

9. Okoro, Rubio, Cedi Osman or Dylan Windler (if he gets off the bench) will be keys here. Someone has to become a regular threat minus the injured Collin Sexton. That will be a big theme for the rest of the year, and I don’t think I’m breaking any news by saying it.

10. For more on the Cavs and Sexton, and several other basketball topics, you can check out my 15-minute visit with Andy Baskin and Jeff Phelps on 92.3 The Fan right here.

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