The Denver Nuggets are coming in to Cleveland on a second night of a back to back. The Cavaliers are coming off of three days rest after their win over Chicago.
Who? Denver Nuggets (11-6) at Cleveland Cavaliers (5-12)
When? 7:00 EST
Where? Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland OH
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Denver has one of the best home court advantages in the league, given their play with a fast pace at a high elevation. But this game isn't in Denver; Cleveland is the reason we have a shot.
What to watch for the Cavaliers:
Saturday's game against Chicago was arguably the best effort the Cavaliers have put forward this season. They got off to a hot start early, the shots were distributed well among all of the starters leading to a less predictable offense and the bench came in and performed well. While Chicago made a push late, the Cavs were able to keep their composure and come away with a win. Look for the Cavaliers to build off of this performance as there were a lot of things to like about that game. Truth be told, the Cavaliers have moved the ball a lot better and look like they are forming a bit of an identity since the game in New Orleans. While their competition has been tough, they've hung around with the teams they've faced that aren't the death machine of San Antonio. Getting everybody involved early will be one of the big keys to this game.
The battle in the paint may be the one that determines the outcome of this game. Denver's starting bigs are JJ Hickson and Kenneth Faried. This could be a favorable matchup for the Cavs starting big man tandem of Andrew Bynum and Tristan Thompson on the offensive end. Both have shot at an unacceptable rate so far this season, but were very effective against Chicago. Hopefully they will be able to take advantage of poor defense tonight and continue their paths to getting back on track offensively.
Andrew Bynum is attempting as many field goals a game with the Cavaliers as he did during the 2010-2011 campaign with the Lakers. The only difference is he's shooting 40% from the floor instead of 57%. Thompson has shown improved range shooting 40% from 8-16 ft. this season and 36% from 16 - 24 ft. this season. However his FG% in the paint has dropped from 51% to 43%. Both of these bigs can attribute part of their drops in percentage to the lack of spacing with both of them in the paint as well as trying to make adjustments to their games. But the bottom line is both need to be better in order for the Cavs to have success this season. If last game was any indication, this tandem can work. Thompson has shown time and time again that he has the work ethic to enable him to make dramatic improvements and adjustments to his game while Bynum is ahead of where any of us could have imagined in his rehab. He is even showing some outside range and is constantly working to get back to his former self.
The other matchup that will weigh heavily on the outcome of the game is the duel between both teams benches. Denver's bench had 72 points in their game against Toronto on Sunday and another 57 last night against Brooklyn. The task of slowing them down and trying to match their production will likely fall on Jarrett Jack, Matthew Dellavedova and Dion Waiters. Containing Nate Robinson and Andre Miller will be key to having success in this game.
What to watch for from the Nuggets
Will Denver be able to force the Cavaliers to play at their pace? Denver likes to get up and down the court and create a lot of opportunities in transition (somewhere that the Cavaliers have struggled to defend at this point of the year) as well as sucker teams into playing a high pace track meet. By playing this style they are able to wear teams down with their depth as has shown with the amount of bench production they have got over their seven game winning streak. The Cavaliers will need to slow this team down and force them to play in the halfcourt, where players like Kenneth Faried and Nate Robinson are much less effective.
Ty Lawson has been playing outstanding basketball for the Nuggets so far this year. He's averaging 20.2 PPG and 8.1 APG this season. He's most effective when he's getting to the basket and creating for himself and others. By keeping him out of the paint the Cavaliers will maximize their chances of coming away with a win tonight.
Don't put a big man on Nate Robinson. He'll do this:
(Note how confused Lawson was as Nate was screaming for the ball until he realized Hansbrough was covering him. Hysterical).
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction:
The Cavs have been trending in the right direction, I think we start to see the work they've put in finally pay off in the win column. While the Cavs usually struggle early after a few days rest I think they survive a few early struggles on offense with sound defense and end up coming away with a win.