After two much needed days off, the Cavaliers travel to Orlando in order to play the Magic. The Magic have been one gigantic mess this season, but are still a pretty talented team when they decide to play well. This game will also be full of mismatches on both sides of the ball.
Song Of The Day: Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry
The biggest (literally) story in Orlando has been whether super duper star, Dwight Howard, will get traded or not. He's a free agent at the end of the year and it looks like there is a good chance that he will leave if given the chance. In order to get something of value back for him, the Magic have obviously pondered trading him this season. While these rumors are floating around, it has obviously affected the play of the Magic and after a really good start has turned them into one of the most unpredictable teams in the league.
Dwight Howard is still a beast and doesn't appear to have completely checked out, so the Cavs will have their hands full. If you remember back to when the Cavaliers were making their playoff runs a few years back, Anderson Varejao had roughly no idea how to stop Dwight. The combination of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Andy V could do nothing to slow down Howard. This is presumably what prompted the front office to go trade for Shaq in the offseason. As you probably know, the Cavs never even got the chance to use Shaq to defend Howard due to losing to the Celtics in the 2nd round. It seems logical that the Cavs will use Varejao on Dwight again tonight and it probably won't go well. He's too big, too strong, and too fast for any of the big men on this roster.
Daniel Gibson was with the team this week but did not participate in practices. He is a game time decision along with Tristan Thompson. Thompson re-injured his ankle in Tuesday's game with the Celtics and Boobie is recovering from a neck infection (what the hell is that? It sounds awful).
There are a number of weird match ups in this game. As I already mentioned, Dwight is going to be a nightmare for the Cavs frontline. Kyrie Irving will have a significant advantage due to an injury to Jameer Nelson. With Nelson injured, the Magic signed Ish Smith to a 10-day contract and he will have the pleasure of trying to keep Irving out of the paint. Good luck, kid. Hedo Turkoglu and Ryan Anderson will not be easy for the Cavaliers to account for. Both are big big dudes (about 6'10") and Anderson should have a field day on Antawn Jamison's defense. When Hedo decides to play well, he can be a really tough matchup and will likely have a pretty big advantage against either Alonzo Gee or Omri Casspi. If Gibson can't go again tonight, the shooting guard situation for the Cavs will be really frustrating. We'll see a lot of Ramon Sessions on the court at the same time as Kyrie and a good amount of Gee at SG.
Some Quick Links:
Time for some self promotion. Check out this post that I wrote over at ESPN's Hardwood Paroxysm. If you're interested in stats at all, I think you'll find it interesting.
Kyrie Irving vs. Dwight Howard
Wait, what? They don't play the same position, I know, but hear me out. Up to this point, Kyrie has been able to get into the paint and finish at a very high rate around the basket. He shouldn't have a problem getting into the paint again tonight, but what he does once he gets there may be a little different. Howard is such an imposing presence and does a fantastic job at altering shots, even the ones that he does not manage to block. Irving is right near the top of the leader board when it comes to FG% on shots at the rim, converting at a clip of 63.1%. He has such fantastic body control and is able to shield the ball from defenders so that they have a very hard time blocking it without fouling. That skill will be tested more than ever against 3-time defending Defensive Player Of The Year, Dwight Howard tonight.
Fear The Sword's Fearless Prediction:
I'm not feeling too great about this one. The two days of rest should help, but I think the Magic present too many matchup problems for the Cavs. The only position that Cleveland really has an advantage is at point guard. Other than that, Orlando has too much size and length. When the Magic are given space to get their threes off unmolested and Dwight gets to go to work in the paint, it usually spells doom for their opponents. I think the Cavs will hang around for the most part but eventually fall by a score of 91-84.