The Cleveland Cavaliers will play host to the Denver Nuggets tonight. What do you know about the Nuggets? Have you been watching a lot of their games recently? I'll admit that I haven't watched them as much as I probably should. But that's why we have our brother blogs. I reached out to Nate Timmons of Denver Stiffs to get some insight on the Cavaliers' opponent.
What gives with the 5-12 Cavaliers? They have some good young talent and I keep wanting to make them my "second favorite team", but it sounds like more problems keep coming up instead of progress? Please explain what is going on!
It’s a combination of a lot of things. The pieces on the roster aren’t a perfect fit. They’re trying to learn a new system under a new coach with lots of new pieces. They’re the youngest (or second youngest?) team in the league. Kyrie Irving is in a horrible shooting slump. I’ve said before that I don’t think there’s any one person to blame, it’s just a perfect combination of factors that have led to a crappy start. Will things turn around? I don’t know. We’ll see.
I’ll admit to having paid very little attention to the Nuggets thus far. After being League Pass darlings last year, how have the Nuggets looked with some new personnel and a new coach?
If you are not watching the Nuggets on League Pass this season, you need to do so after this game. Seriously, with Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson aboard, the highlight reel plays are still there and the team is actually playing at a faster pace offensively, 96.8 (4th of 30), than they did last season under George Karl (95.1 2nd of 30). Their defensive rating is about what it was last season and that's to be expected when the team is playing at a fast offensive pace and allowing more possessions.
When Brian Shaw first got here and said "inside out" people went overboard with thinking the team was going to drastically change. It even looked like we'd see a slowed down game as the team was running through the post a lot during the preseason. Shaw said that running is "cute" but doesn't work in the playoffs, but has also preached about wanting the proper blend of: running, half-court offense, and tough defense. We've seen a ton of pick-and-roll and a nice blend of post-play too when the team is in the half-court.
Another fun thing to watch ... when Brian Shaw makes George Karl drool by playing Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson, Andre Miller, Randy Foye, and Big Man X. We haven't seen that lineup a lot, but we have seen plenty of Lawson, Robinson, and Miller on the floor together or two of those three.
One of my favorite guys on the Cavs team is Tristan Thompson, he averages 10.8 points and 9.5 rebounds. How is he doing in your eyes? Any player that has surprised you thus far?
Tristan Thompson started off great, but has struggled since the first few games. Now that Andrew Bynum is in the starting lineup, I think Tristan is having a hard time figuring out how he fits within the offense. He's certainly improved as a player, but I'm not sure that the current situation is one that will give him the best opportunity to put up impressive numbers. His midrange jumper is still very much a work in progress and it's a weapon that the Cavs desperately need him to develop in order to accomplish proper spacing on offense.
If there's a player that has surprised me in a good way, it's Andrew Bynum. When he was signed by the Cavaliers, nobody really thought he was going to be able to contribute anything significant until at least after the all star break, if at all. Now, he has played up to 30 minutes in a game and even plays on the second night of back to backs. The Miami Heat are holding Dwyane Wade out of the second night of a lot of back to backs. Think about that. It's ridiculous that Bynum is healthy and he's slowly getting his touch back. There's a lot of season to go, so we'll see if the team can fully adjust to having a traditional big man in the lineup and start looking better on offense.
What do you think is the biggest or most important matchup in this game between the Cavs and Nuggets tonight?
I am really looking forward to seeing Bynum play and how the Nuggets choose to defend him. Starting J.J. Hickson on him has its pluses and minuses. Timofey Mozgov has played him well back in his Lakers days.
I worry about C.J. Miles. He had some good nights with the Jazz versus Denver. I was surprised to learn his career points per game against Denver weren't 50 and only 8.6. But the marquee matchup is Ty Lawson against Kyrie Irving, no question. Two exciting players and should be fun to watch.
I have liked Hickson since his NC State days, what are your thoughts on him? What are the chances both teams wear their yellow alternates tonight?! Yellow Fest!
I don't care for JJ Hickson. When he was in Cleveland, he was a decent player but not a particularly smart one. He's obviously super athletic, but I always found that he lacked the focus to be a really useful player on a good team. His defensive effort left something to be desired. I'm very pleased that the Cavs opted to go with Thompson at power forward instead of Hickson. But I know he was productive in Portland, so I'll be interested to see how Hickson has improved since his time in Cleveland.
Was the dust up between Mike Brown and Kyrie Irving a cause for concern? Has Irving responded to Brown with his play on the floor? Who wins tonight?
The dust up was nothing as far as I'm concerned. Both Mike Brown and Kyrie said it was just a player and a coach interacting on the sidelines during the heat of a game. I haven't seen any carry over from that confrontation since it initially happened. If there's tension between the two of them, it's happening behind closed doors. Whether or not Kyrie responded to it is a good question. Kyrie makes a point to say that he is the leader of this team and that everything starts with effort and focus from him. I really believe that he wants that to be true, but right now he hasn't really stepped up.
It's important to remember that Kyrie is just 21 years old and is getting used to committing himself to the defensive end of the floor while scoring efficiently and being a leader. I think he'll figure it out, it's just going to take some time.
All of my logic says that the Cavs should win tonight. The Nuggets are on the second night of a back-to-back and on the road. The Cavs are at home and have been off since Saturday but literally nothing is a sure thing with this Cavs team. I'll predict a win for the Cavs, but I have zero confidence in that pick. You?
This will be a tough one for the Nuggets. They are 0-2 this season in the second of back-to-backs (both games coming on the road) and the rested and young legs of the Cavs should give them the advantage. But it's hard to go against a team that is on a seven game win streak and playing as well as Brian Shaw's team is ... call it a homer pick, but I think the Nuggets pull out a close one tonight.
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