USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a brutal schedule up to this point. And it's about to get tougher. Tonight, they kick off a 5-game road trip and it starts in one of the toughest places to play in the NBA.
Five road games. Just these five road games and then the Cavs have just one road trip of more than two games for the rest of the season. It's just these five games at Denver, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland, and Utah and then the Cavs have one more three-game road trip later in the season. Other than that, it's all quick 2-game trips or home games. It was only a matter of time before the schedule lightened up and thankfully it's going to come when everybody on the team is healthy...oh wait.
When? 9:00 PM Eastern
Where? Pepsi Center -- Denver, CO
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio / NBA League Pass
Enemy/brother blog? Denver Stiffs
Tickets? Cleveland Cavaliers tickets
Okay, so the Cavs recently got the news about Anderson Varejao's knee injury requiring surgery. He'll be out 6-8 weeks while he recovers from that surgery. However, Cleveland has put together a somewhat respectable stretch of games recently, going 4-5 in their last nine. Maybe a blowout win against the Atlanta Hawks will give them some momentum going into the road trip? Well, whatever momentum that win may have provided is probably squashed now. Kyrie Irving did not participate in Friday's shootaround and is QUESTIONABLE for tonight's game against the Nuggets. Without Kyrie Irving, I give the Cavs a very small chance of winning this game.
In other injury news, C.J. Miles should be back in the starting lineup tonight after missing a couple of games with back spasms. Luke Walton also missed the last two games due to personal reasons and is back with the team. Daniel Gibson suffered a concussion a few games back and has finally passed all of the NBA's concussion protocol and is cleared to return. It's apparently a rule this Cavs season that when some players come back from injury, other players have to become ill or injured. We'll see if Kyrie plays tonight, but I don't feel good about it.
While it would obviously be best if Kyrie were able to play, the Nuggets are a formidable opponent regardless. They are stocked with talent at nearly every position and are damn hard to beat on their home court. Danilo Gallinari has started to learn how to shoot again and that's helping one of their biggest problems: outside shooting. The Nuggets REALLY struggled to shoot from the perimeter and score the vast majority of their points inside the painted area. Luckily for Cleveland, the Cavs are one of the worst teams at defending the paint. (In case you missed the sarcasm in that last sentence, it is not lucky for the Cavs. It's actually very bad.)
JaVale McGee is a lot of fun to watch, mostly because he's crazy and you never know what he's going to do next. Kenneth Faried is also quite fun to watch, unless he's going up against your team. He's a monster on the boards and without Anderson Varejao, rebounding could be a big problem for the Cavaliers. Many people like to point to a comparison between Faried and Cleveland's Tristan Thompson. Thompson, of course, was selected 4th overall by the Cavaliers in the 2011 draft. Faried, on the other hand, was selected 22nd overall by the Nuggets in that same draft. Some argue that Faried is obviously the better choice due to some of Tristan's struggles early on in his career. However, Thompson has seemed to develop in a very very good rebounding in his own right and is starting to show the development on offense that leads me to believe he can score as effectively (and in more ways) than Faried in the future. Defensively, Faried is a sieve. He's got tons of energy and that helps with rebounds and scoring on putbacks and dunks, but it doesn't really help on defense. The Nuggets are three points per 100 possessions worse defensively when Faried is on the court and according to 82games.com, his power forward counterparts have a PER of 18.4 on the year. Meanwhile, the Cavs are much much better defensively with Tristan on the court and his power forward counterparts have a PER of just 12.4 on the year. When you consider the fact that Tristan is also two years younger than Faried, it's a lot closer than some people may have initially thought. I'm biased, but for the next five years I'd rather have TT. Regardless, that should be a very fun matchup between two high energy, bouncy power forwards.
I love Andre Iguodala and he's a really good player. I don't know if I have much more to say about him other than that. But I love watching him play defense and kind of hope we get to see Iguodala guard Kyrie (if Kyrie is healthy enough to play).
Ty Lawson is a very good player as well, who seems to be breaking out of an early season slump. Containing him would be ideal, although not expected. I figure the Cavs will match Alonzo Gee up with Danilo Gallinari. This is probably one of those games where Byron Scott wishes he could clone Alonzo and have him guard three players at once. Unfortunately, that technology hasn't been invented yet. Sidenote: I watched Back to the Future the other day and realized that the time machine is basically a cloning machine as well. All you have to do is go back in time and then go back to the future a few minutes before you left and then stop yourself from going back in the first place. I think. Maybe that would make you disappear like in Marty's family photo. And it might destroy the space-time continuum. But anywho, it's something Byron should look into if he wants to help fix the defense.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction
I'm predicting a loss. Having C.J. Miles and Daniel Gibson back should help the Cavs get an advantage from behind the arc, but the possibility of having Kyrie at less than 100% is terrifying. I really hope Dion Waiters can have a good game - he needs one. In the end, Nuggets win 106-93.