Bulls, Cavaliers face off looking to end skids
Chicago and Cleveland, the two teams with the worst records, collide on Monday.
The Bulls (10-36) hit the road to face the Cavaliers (9-38), and combined the two teams have managed to win just one time in their past 20 games. Cleveland owns that victory, a surprising 101-95 upset of the LeBron James-less Lakers in Los Angeles on Jan. 13.
Cleveland is coming off a 22-point road loss to Denver on Saturday. Chicago also lost on Saturday, suffering a 14-point home defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat.
The two teams are very similar -- in a very bad way. They rank 28th and 29th in scoring per game, 26th and 27th in rebounds per game and they are tied for fewest amount of made 3-pointers per game.
On the defensive side, the Bulls and Cavs are among the bottom four in opponents' field-goal percentage. But give Chicago some credit, they rank ahead of Golden State and only give up 111.6 points per game. The Cavs come into Monday's game allowing 113.9 per game.
The two teams have met twice this season with the Bulls coming away with a one-point win on Nov. 10 and a 20-point win on Dec. 23. But since then, the Bulls have lost 11 of 12, including 10 in a row.
"You could say it's multiple things if you want," Kris Dunn tried to explain after Saturday's loss to the Heat. "At the end of the day, we just have to come together, buckle down and find a win somewhere."
The mounting losses have left some Bulls dumbfounded.
"Something's obviously wrong," said the team's leading scorer, Zach LaVine. "We weren't losing (by) double digits earlier in the season. We might have been losing, (but) we didn't have a full roster (with injuries). We're a better team now and we're getting blown out. It doesn't make a lot of sense. We go out there and play hard. You can't fault effort."
Likewise, the Cavaliers have been putting in the effort with the same losing results.
Injuries have been the Cavaliers biggest bugaboo. Against Denver and Utah, Cleveland finished off a 1-5 road trip without Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. against two of the top centers -- Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic.
If there was a shining light for the Cavs it was center Ante Zizic, and the 22-year-old did not embarrass himself. Against Gobert, he scored 15 points and had 10 rebounds. Facing off against Jokic, Zizic recorded 23 points and six boards.
"I was happy to see Zizic push through a back-to-back," Cleveland head coach Larry Drew said. "I think this is really his first one he's played substantial minutes and played against one of the best centers in the league in Jokic. He's got to keep working and he's got to just continue to get better, but I do see a lot of signs of improvement."
The road trip for the Cavs was costly. Nance suffered a sprained right MCL and remains out.
Thompson sat out the final two games of the road trip with a sore foot, the same foot that caused him to miss 10 games earlier this season. He is a game-time decision as is David Nwaba (ankle).
Chicago also suffered a significant loss when Wendell Carter Jr. tore ligaments in his left thumb against the Lakers on Tuesday. The rookie has opted for surgery and probably will miss the rest of the season.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 20, 2019