Snowy conditions in Chicago marred both the Bulls and Cavaliers' travel plans ahead of their bout Saturday night at the UC. Each team had its flights from respective departure cities (for the Bulls, Philadelphia; for the Cavaliers, Memphis) overnight on Friday, and didn't arrive in Chicago until Saturday morning.
But, before the game, both coaches scoffed good-naturedly at the notion that the stilted schedule might impact their preparation time or energy.
"We still showed up for our meal in Chicago at the same time," Cavaliers head coach John Beilein said. "I think with the NBA what I've observed is the long nap time in the afternoon is more important than anything for these guys. So we didn't get much sleep the night before, had to get up early. But we got to the hotel and ate at 11, and from 12 to 4 our guys got some pretty good rest."
"This has happened before. We're on a back-to-back, we need to do the basics better. I haven't talked about the travel, I'm not going to talk to the team about how difficult it was or whatever. I don't do that," Jim Boylen said. "This is the pro part, the professional part, so we gotta come out and play hard."
That the Bulls will do, as they do every night. And perhaps, in spite of their grueling January slate, they might find an edge over a Cavaliers team currently running a gauntlet of their own.
For the Cavs, this game is the last of a six-game road trip, on which they're 2-3 to this point. In that context, there might not be a more nightmarish matchup than the Bulls, given their ability to force turnovers. The Bulls' aggressive, trapping defensive scheme yields 17.8 opponent turnovers per game, the most in the NBA. The Cavaliers commit the second-most turnovers per game in the league (16.3) and own the league's highest turnover rate (16.4%).
"We're playing a very different team now with the way they play defense, very aggressive, steal the ball a lot," Beilein said. "We tried to show as much film as we could without wearing [the players] out, make sure that we were fresh seeing as we're coming off a back-to-back. They're leading the league in turning people over, we're leading the league in turning the ball over, so that'll be an interesting question whether we can solve that today."
"We always hope to have active hands and make people play through our hands," Boylen said. "Hopefully [we] do what we do."
The Bulls enter play 15-28, the Cavaliers 12-30. And both are coming off losses on the front end of their back-to-backs — the Bulls 100-89 to the 76ers and the Cavaliers 113-109 to the upstart Grizzlies. Logistical misfortunes aside, there's a game to be played tonight, and don't expect any excuses from either side.
"Both of us [the Cavaliers and Bulls] are coming off tough losses and we both have to deal with it, and you know, we'll see," Beilein said. "Hopefully it's going to be a really good game, and whichever team can battle that adversity the best is gonna win."
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