HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — It’s Fan Night on NBA TV, and we have the Cavs and Bulls at 8 p.m. ET from Chicago.
The Bulls need to regain some traction, having spent most of February on the road and having lost six of their last nine games. The Cavs have a chance for a winning month, or at least a .500 month if they can split their final two games (they host Toronto on Wednesday).
Here are some notes to get you ready for this Central Division matchup, courtesy of NBA.com/Stats …
Is Taj Gibson the Bulls’ MIP (Most Important Player)?
The Bulls will be without Taj Gibson, who’s out about two weeks with a sprained knee, for the first time this season. That’s an injury that can really hurt, because, though Gibson has played the sixth-most minutes on the Bulls, he leads the team in raw plus-minus at plus-107 and on-court NetRtg (plus-minus per 100 possessions). Chicago has been better both offensively and defensively with Gibson on the floor.
Bulls efficiency, Gibson on and off the floor
* Leads team
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Cleveland’s offensive turnaround
The Cavs are just 5-5 in February, but they’ve made a big jump offensively. In fact, they’ve been a top-five offensive team this month after ranking 27th in that department through January.
Cavs offensive efficiency by month
The big difference has been 3-point shooting. The Cavs have four guys who have attempted at least 20 threes and are shooting better than 39 percent from beyond the arc this month.
One of those four guys is 3-point champ Kyrie Irving, who is now the league’s leading clutch-time scorer with 117 points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime and a point differential of five points or less. Sadly, we won’t get to see Irving display his talent tonight, as he’s suffering from a hyperextended knee.
Still, Irving has done it in about the same number of clutch-time minutes as Kevin Durant, and far fewer clutch-time minutes than the other guys in the top five. One reason is that Irving has the ball in his hands so much.
Irving has used (via shots, free throws, assists and turnovers) more than half of the Cavs’ possessions in clutch time, a mark that leads the league and is a big jump from his overall usage rate.
Highest usage rate, clutch time
Minimum 50 minutes
Rebounds aren’t enough
While the Cavs have improved offensively in February, the Bulls have regressed. They’ve been held to less than 75 points in three of their last five games, they rank 27th in efficiency this month and actually rank in the bottom four in three of the “four factors.”
Bulls offense, February
eFG% = (FGM + (3PM*0.5))/FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TOV% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
It’s great that they’re the league’s best offensive rebounding team this month, but you’re still not going to be a good offensive team if you can’t shoot, you can’t get to the line, and you turn the ball over too much.