Bulls

Bulls should expect a more aggressive LeBron James

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Bulls should expect a more aggressive LeBron James

CLEVELAND — It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that either the long layoff hurt LeBron James or Chicago’s defense did in Game 1 on Monday, with the road team taking full advantage in stealing the series opener.

And the beauty of this delicate dance between two talented teams is James has a chance to respond, while the Bulls have a chance to prepare for the alterations James will try to make.

For one, anybody with a set of eyes can tell you James wasn’t his usual aggressive self. Jimmy Butler wasn’t backing down and he had a gang of teammates behind him ready to help, knowing not too many of James’ teammates could beat them.

“I have to be better,” James said.

[MORE: 3 unsung keys to the Bulls' Game 1 victory over the Cavs]

James’ 19 points weren’t enough, nor were his 22 shots. In his third opening-game series loss to the Chicago Bulls, their star, Derrick Rose, didn’t want to hear anything about the past. Rose has deflected bringing up the past in interviews leading into the series and took the same tone Tuesday after the Bulls’ film session.

“I hadn’t thought about it unless I’m being asked,” Rose said.

But when asked what he feels James is going through mentally, Rose offered a glimpse into James’ thinking.

“I think he’s…I really don’t know,” Rose said. “Being aggressive, I think he’s gonna try to dictate the whole game from both sides of the ball.”

“And we have to prepare for that because he can actually do that. There’s a couple things he can do but I don’t want to talk about it (laughs).”

James has publicly stated he’ll be more aggressive, and the Cavaliers have to strategically change plenty of things before Game 2 — most notably their deplorable pick-and-roll defense — but one has to wonder if a change in James’ attitude will be the biggest alteration.

But if James takes over, will that play right into the Bulls’ hands? Talk about a delicate dance the Bulls are walking, along with James. If James becomes super aggressive, what does that do to Kyrie Irving, a player who isn’t a natural facilitator?

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Strategically, the Cavaliers could run more with their smallish lineup, but Cavaliers coach David Blatt could be overmatched here.

“They have a unique offense because of what LeBron brings to them,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Kyrie can handle the point. You can never let your guard down against them. They can score 10 points in less than a minute. They can play in a number of ways and you have to be ready for the different looks and hopefully we can do a good job getting our defense back and being set.”

Along with Iman Shumpert, who scored a surprising 22 points, those three were the only impactful men wearing home whites on Monday night. And the Bulls certainly appear to have struck a blow that could last longer than 48 minutes.

Rose was asked how the Cavaliers would play him any differently, but he could very well have been James speaking about what the Bulls do to him.

“Who knows? That’s the great thing about the playoffs,” Rose said. “Even if I’m not scoring or having a bad game you gotta figure things out. I can’t go into the game having that thought in my mind. Only having good thoughts.”

It’s certainly going to take more than good thoughts for James to overcome another complex puzzle, one which the Bulls are happy to change around rapidly every game this series.

Olympic swimmer Ryan Held reps Bulls' Ryan Arcidiacono at TYR Pro Series

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USA Today

Olympic swimmer Ryan Held reps Bulls' Ryan Arcidiacono at TYR Pro Series

When Ryan Arcidiacono saw Olympic swimmer Ryan Held’s latest Twitter post showing his homestate Bulls some love, the guard did a double-take.

“I was like, ‘I wonder if it’s Chandler [Hutchison],’” Arcidiacono said of Held wearing a Bulls No. 15 jersey as he prepared to take the blocks for a race. “And then I saw him bend and I could see my name and I was like, ‘Wow. That’s pretty cool.’”

This is the depth of Held’s fandom. The Springfield, Ill., native is breaking out Arcidiacono jerseys from the journeyman guard’s rookie season. Arcidiacono wears No. 51 now. Hutchison sports No. 15. 

“He’s a Bulls fan,” Arcidiacono said of Held. “I’ve never met him but we’ve exchanged some [direct messages] on Twitter. This last one, I Tweeted back at him and said, ‘Way to represent.’ I also wished him luck.” 

Held, who swam at Springfield’s Sacred-Heart Griffin High, may not need it. The Illinois swimmer of the year in 2014, he qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics and swam a leg on the gold-medal winning 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay team.

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Bulls, Cavaliers making no excuses in spite of stilted travel schedule

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USA Today

Bulls, Cavaliers making no excuses in spite of stilted travel schedule

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." 

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.