PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 12: Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball during the NBA game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at US Airways Center on January 12, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Cavaliers defeated the Suns 101-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Uh oh, this is the rare "game recap-game preview combo." For the first part of this, I'll do a quick recap of the Cavaliers 93-80 loss to the Orlando Magic and then I'll brief you on the Cavs game today when they will host the Phoenix Suns. Sound good? Cool.
Cavaliers 80, Magic 93
Cavs Leaders: Points: Jamison, 16; Rebounds: Thompson, 11; Assists: Irving, 6
I think it was pretty obvious that we were going to lose this game to the Magic, right? Orlando is currently the third best team in the Eastern Conference and has arguably the second best player in the NBA (depending on the night, I would be someone that would argue in favor of this statement). The Cavaliers are a team that started a rookie power forward at center to go up against Dwight Howard. I don't have a problem with throwing Tristan Thompson into the fire like that. It's good for him to get that experience and see how he manages against a true dominant force, like Howard. It's also important, however, not to expect to win that matchup. It's a learning experience. You've got to realize that Tigger isn't going to beat Dwight. As long as your expectations are reasonable, you can still find positive things about games like this.
Despite being thrown into a lopsided matchup, Tristan still emerged with a double-double. It wasn't the prettiest 15 points and 11 rebounds that you'll ever see, but it was relatively productive. Perhaps the most impressive part of Thompson's game was that he hit all five of his free throws. That's a big deal for him. He continues to rack up offensive rebounds, this time grabbing five of them. Once his defensive rebounding skills get on the same level as his offensive rebounding, he'll be an overall rebounding beast. Until then, Tigger is just relying on freakish athleticism and hustle to rack up the stats.
Kyrie Irving didn't play particularly poorly, but he didn't exactly play well either. He finished with 13 points (6 of 15), 6 assists, and 4 rebounds. The Dwight Howard In The Paint factor is certainly a big one and makes it hard to make layups.
The Cavs, as a team, were miserable shooting the ball. 37.8% from the floor and just 4 of 18 from behind the arc is not a good way to win a basketball game. Only two Cavaliers made over 50% of their shots against Orlando. Which two, you ask? Omri Casspi and Anthony Parker *drops mic and goes home*.
I do like what I see from Donald Sloan. He looks to be a relatively decent backup point guard. Obviously, this is a small sample size, but he has looked serviceable from what I have seen.
Manny Harris did not play well against the Magic. He was just off, shooting 2 of 9 from the field in 25 minutes. His defense looks pretty good, although he still gets lost at times. Regardless, he's faster than Anthony Parker and is therefore more likely to not get burnt on every single play.
Fear The Sword's Player Of The Game:
Do I really have to give this award out? Uh, okay. I'll give it to Luke Walton. He made his Cavaliers debut and played three minutes while compiling no statistics other than a steal. It was a truly inspiring performance.
Phoenix Suns (24-24) at Cleveland Cavaliers (17-28)
Song Of The Day: Blister In The Sun - Violent Femmes
Where the heck did the Suns come from? They are easily the most surprising team this season. With a roster that looks like they should be counting ping pong balls like the Cavs, Steve Nash has Phoenix sitting at .500 and just a few games out of the playoffs. In fact, they'd be relatively comfortably in the playoffs if they were in the Eastern Conference.
Steve Nash is a freak. He is 38 years old and have one of his best seasons ever -- with one of his worst supporting casts ever. Nash is simply leading the league in assists per game for the third consecutive season and for the sixth time in the past eight years. Steve Nash is a freak.
The Cavaliers should have a pretty decent chance of bouncing back against Phoenix, however. Phoenix has the 19th best defense according to defensive rating and more importantly, they do not have Dwight Howard. There aren't too many individually good defenders on this roster, outside of Grant Hill and Marcin Gortat, I suppose. Antawn Jamison seems to typically play well against the Suns and I'm anticipating him to have an efficient day scoring the ball.
Why am I so confident about this game while the Suns clearly have the better record and play in the more difficult conference? I'm actually not sure. Perhaps it's because the Suns are so surprising this year that I still don't quite fully believe that they are a .500 ball club. It's weird.
I think Kyrie will have a significantly better game than he did against Orlando. For all of Nash's offensive wizardry, he simply cannot stay in front of someone as quick as Kyrie. The rookie will go back to his usual ways of scoring 20+. I'm also feeling good about Tristan Thompson. Marcin Gortat is a very very good (and very underrated) player, but Tigger will once again thrive on offensive boards and put-backs to get another double-double.
Alonzo has had a couple poor shooting nights this week, but continues to play splendid defense. He'll have to stick to Dudley on the three point line to limit his scoring output. Dudley is a remarkable shooter from long range and has been filling it up in a number of ways in recent games. Also, Dudley is a Boston College alum. Just thought I'd throw that out there.
Fear The Sword's Fearless Prediction:
I'm predicting a win, you guys. The Cavs pull off the upset (??) against the Phoenix Suns by a score of 106-99 and Kyrie wins player of the game (bold, I know). So there's that.