Cleveland finds themselves in a unique situation in Thursday night's matchup against the Bulls as the Cavs have finally succumbed the #1 seed in the East to the Celtics. The move has coincided with Boston playing great basketball while the Cavs seem mired in mediocrity down the stretch.
Just like Cleveland had seemingly been hanging on to the top seed in the East by a thread much of the last couple months, the Bulls have been in and out of the 8th slot in the playoffs in a similar manner. Right now Chicago sits .5 games behind the Heat for a chance at the postseason but the Bulls have been one of the hardest teams to gauge pretty much all season long.
There's no other “the sky is falling” team in the NBA quite like the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their recent crisis mode formed after a 2-4 streak that included a 30-point loss to the Clippers, a 13 point loss to the Nuggets, giving up 120 points to the Lakers, and getting stomped by 29 in San Antonio. The Cavs are 2-4 in their last 6 road games with the only wins coming against the Lakers and Charlotte.
Just when it seems like the season is a writeoff for Chicago they scratch their way back into the playoff race. The Bulls haven't exactly been lighting up the nets lately, it's just that they've won “just enough” compared to the Pistons, Hornets, and somewhat the Heat. Chicago is 4-6 in their last 10 in what should be a must-win situation on a nightly basis.
Seeing Cleveland on the schedule has actually been a welcome sight for the Bulls this season. Chicago is 3-0 against the Cavs this season, winning by 6 points, 12 points, and most recently 18 points in a 117-99 victory on February 25th. The 'over' is 2-1 in the matchups this year and has hit in 4 straight Bulls games as well as 4 of 5 for the Cavs. If you're making a total bet, the over is definitely the trend.
The big side wager comes down to whether Chicago continues to find their extra gear against the slumping Cavs. Cleveland is basically in 'ho-hum' mode as they prepare for their inevitable Eastern Conference Finals appearance while Chicago sees this as a rivalry game – and one they need for playoff considerations. The betting public is going to be riding Chicago's 3-0 streak against Cleveland which provides great value for the Cavs in this matchup. Both teams are well rested and in that instance Cleveland is simply the better team. The Cavs are the pick.