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Game 6 Preview: Cavaliers vs. Bulls

LeBron James won the day in Game 5, so Game 6 could end this series against Chicago. Can the Bulls stay alive?

Joel Brigham profile picture
Updated 11 months ago on
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#3 – Chicago Bulls

At this point in the series, laying out what the Bulls have to do in order to win the next game is as simple as looking back at the previous game previews and just rereading all of the stuff that already has been written about them.

Don’t give LeBron James easy layups. Keep Tristan Thompson off of the offensive glass. Score consistently so that there aren’t six-to-nine minute droughts in which nobody on the roster can successfully make a field goal. Do those things, and they win.

But Game 5, like almost every other game in this series so far, saw the Bulls continue to make the same mistakes. And thanks to a Taj Gibson ejection and that lingering Pau Gasol hamstring injury, they saw their lineup thin out almost as severely as Cleveland’s. The lack of frontcourt depth definitely hurt them in Game 5.

Still, it shouldn’t really matter. If the Bulls were a legitimate championship contender they’d have had a much easier time this series with Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert both dealing with varied ailments, Kevin Love not even playing and LeBron James allegedly dealing with a bum ankle. Chicago should have dominated this series, but James is getting the best of them again, like he always does.

The Bulls can win Game 6 in Chicago, especially if Gasol is able to make his way back to the court, but to win the next two is a tall order. Whatever they’re made of, this is when we see it.

#2 – Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 5 was the night that Cleveland got its groove back. They looked every bit the Eastern Conference champions, with LeBron James (38 points, 12 rebounds) doing all the usual LeBron James things at about 1.2-times speed. Jimmy Butler had nowhere near the success guarding him than he had in previous games, in large part because LeBron used his muscle to back Butler down rather than try to shoot jumpshots in his face. He either drove right by him for an open layup or backed him in for a scoop or a foul. Butler’s got to be exhausted. There’s only so much that guy can do.

Irving game back to life in Game 5 too, scoring 25 points on a night when he was supposed to be just a “decoy.” He didn’t have his quickness back or anything, but he found his stroke and nailed some huge shots. When he’s shooting like that and James is as efficient as he was, there’s just no way Chicago is going to beat them. Big contributions from Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova sure helped too.

Winning Game 6 is just a matter of doing all of the same things they’ve done the last couple of games. Chicago can’t score consistently, so if the Cavaliers play reasonable defense and weather the Bulls’ occasional runs, the series should be theirs, if not Friday night, then by the end of Game 7 back in Cleveland.

Who Wins Game 6?

So far, every prediction in this series has been spot-on, so there’s little reason to alter them now. This series should still go seven games. The Bulls are too proud to lose at home in Game 6, and this series has been too entertaining to end a game early.

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Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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