Previewing Thursday night's Bulls-Cavaliers Game 3...
THE DETAILS: Cavaliers at Bulls, 7 p.m. ET, United Center. The Cavaliers lead the series, 2-0.
SETTING THE STAGE: Game 1 wasn't much of a game at all, but Game 2 was a battle. Now the Cavaliers look to carry the momentum of a strong finish, but will be facing a hostile crowd and a Bulls team that's embraced its underdog role, playing loose and aggressively. LeBron James bailed the Cavaliers out with a 15-point fourth quarter Monday night as the Cavaliers inched away. Joakim Noah has placed himself in the spotlight and played an outstanding game (25 points, 13 rebounds) in Game 2, but the Bulls are going to need big nights from two or three (or four) other players to score a victory and make this a series again.
WHAT THE CAVS MUST DO: Keep letting James do his thing -- Luol Deng just can't keep him out of the paint -- but make sure everyone is involved. The Cavaliers won one game by just outsizing and outmuscling the Bulls, and in Game 2 they went small in the final quarter to win. They don't want to rely on the jumpshot and don't want to put the Bulls on the foul line. They want to continue to maximize their depth and their advantages, defend the pick-and-roll well and make the rebounding battle just that, a battle. The Bulls were the league's best rebounding team during the regular season and showed their skill on the glass in Game 2 after the Cavaliers dominated that category, 50-38, in the first game.
WHAT THE BULLS MUST DO: Make shots. They're shooting just 43 percent in the series. Go-to-guy Derrick Rose has needed 52 shots to get his 51 points, and the Cavaliers have blocked 21 shots. Maybe home-court advantage will help. Defensively the Bulls have mixed things up, and they want the Cavaliers to make jump shots to beat them. Problem is, the Cavaliers have made a lot of them. The Bulls like Noah's energy and leadership, but they want other guys to score. And they want the high-screen-and-roll game with Rose to result in more scores and more trips to the line.
LOOKING AHEAD: Game 4 is set for Sunday afternoon. Game 5 (if necessary) is Tuesday.
NOTES: The Cavaliers are 2-10 in Chicago in the playoffs...Jamario Moon's 12 points on four three-pointers in Game 2 were a career playoff high. After the game, Noah challenged Moon "to make those shots in Chicago"...All four Eastern Conference first-round series stand at 2-0 in favor of the higher seeds. None of the games have really been close.