The Cleveland Cavaliers struggled in their first road trip of the season, dropping consecutive games against the Charlotte Bobcats and the Indiana Pacers. But the team returns home with a chance to bounce back and get back to a .500 record. It won't be easy though. The Cavs will be hosting a very solid Minnesota Timberwolves team, featuring studly fantasy basketball (and real basketball) monster, Kevin Love.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (1-2) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-0)
When? 7:00 PM Eastern
Where? Quicken Loans Arena -- Cleveland, OH
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio / NBA League Pass
Things to watch with the Cavaliers:
When the team hired Mike Brown to be the head coach, there was an assumption that they would take on a defensive identity. Through the first three games of the 2013-14 season, that has certainly been the case. The Cavs are 2nd in the league in defensive rating at just 95.5 points per 100 possessions. That's fantastic. Unfortunately, the offense has as bad as the defense has been good. The Cavaliers are scoring just 89.6 points per 100 possessions, good for dead last in the NBA. Obviously, three games is a tremendously small sample size. Those numbers may mean nothing. But as it stands right now, the Cavs have played as a great defensive team that can't score the basketball. By no means do I think the Cavs will be the worst offense in the league (but they also won't be the 2nd best defense in the league), but it's interesting to see how they have played thus far.
So how do the Cavs improve upon their abysmal offensive numbers? That answer starts with Kyrie Irving. We haven't seen the real Kyrie Irving yet. He's struggling a little bit. I'm not exactly sure why, but I'm not worried. We know that Kyrie can score the basketball and we know that he can do it efficiently. It's only a matter of time before Kyrie starts doing what we all expect him to do. And when that time comes, the Cavs' offense will improve significantly. Tonight presents a great opportunity for Kyrie to get on the right track offensively. The Wolves are a solid team, but they don't have the interior presence that a team like the Indiana Pacers has. There's no Roy Hibbert, Ian Mahinmi, or David West lurking in the paint to alter your shot. That should allow Kyrie to score more buckets at the rim and rely less on his jump shot. Of course, Kyrie will have to get past Ricky Rubio, who is a tremendous defender, but is there really anybody that can consistently stay in front of Kyrie Irving? I expect him to have his first big game of the season.
As you might expect, the same logic applies to Dion Waiters. He's had troubles similar to Kyrie this season and should benefit from playing against a team that isn't as stout defensively. For Waiters, it also helps that he'll probably be guarded by human sieve, Kevin Martin. If Waiters settles for jumpers instead of blowing past Kevin Martin, I will tear my hair out.
Andrew Bynum hasn't played since Friday night and should be set to play 8-12 minutes tonight. It's not a lot of time, but he definitely provides a boost when he's out there. It'll be interesting to see what he can provide and to see if Mike Brown increases his minutes at all.
Anthony Bennett hasn't made an NBA basket yet. I have to think that will change tonight. Bennett is a really good shooter and a really good finisher. He just hasn't done it yet in the NBA. It's one thing to say that Bennett has gone three games without making a field goal, but keep in mind that he's only taken 12 shots total. He hasn't been good and he certainly looks like a rookie, but missing 12 shots in a row isn't exactly an amazing feat. It happens. Bennett will figure things out. If I'm Mike Brown, I make sure that I run some designed plays for Bennett early in this game. Get him some open looks and let him knock some shots down so that he can stop worrying about it and just play basketball.
Times like these can make a persons mind stronger .. It's a New Day , gotta keep pushing— Anthony Bennett (@AnthonyBennett) November 3, 2013
Best thing about it is ... We got 79 more to go— Anthony Bennett (@AnthonyBennett) November 3, 2013
Things to watch with the Timberwolves:
Kevin Love. End of preview.
Just kidding, mostly. Kevin Love is obviously a monster and I'm super glad that the kid one pick ahead of me in my fantasy league took Carmelo Anthony instead, causing Love to fall to me. He's averaging 30 points and 15 rebounds a game. He looks like he's in great shape and is essentially unguardable at this moment in time. Also: he has some glorious facial hair. He looks like a magical genie that uses his powers to play basketball. Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao will have their hands full with Love and Nikola Pekovic on the boards. If you love scrappy fights for rebounds, this is the game for you.
Ricky Rubio is adorable and also a pretty great point guard. He's dishing out assists at a very high rate and he continues to play solid perimeter defense. He's already got 11 steals in three games, so it will be important for the Cavs to avoid turning the ball over and giving Minnesota easy points. Did I mention that he's adorable?
The Wolves beat the New York Knicks last night at Madison Square Garden. If you understand how days work, that means they are on the second night of a road back-to-back. Cleveland had the day off on Sunday and will be at home. That's a nice little advantage, especially early in the season when teams aren't used to playing back-to-back games yet.
The Wolves have had really bad injury luck recently and will be without both Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf for a while. Through three games, it hasn't matter. The Wolves are 3-0 and rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating. Their three wins have come against the Orlando Magic in overtime, the Oklahoma City Thunder (pre-Russell Westbrook), and the New York Knicks. Can the Cavs hand them their first loss?
He's only played 14 minutes this season, but we might get a chance to see Sam Vecenie's lover, Gorgui Dieng. In those 14 minutes, he has committed 4 fouls and turned the ball over twice. Hey look, a rookie with a worse start than Anthony Bennett! Woooooo.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction:
Do we still do these? I feel like David stopped doing these. Oh well, I'll say the Cavs win 96-90, mostly because Minnesota is on the second night of a back-to-back. Bynum played 9 minutes and scores 6 points with 4 boards and a block. Kyrie drops 31.