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Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers host hurting New Orleans Pelicans

The Cavaliers hope to close out a disappointing home stand with a win over the Pelicans.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The New Orleans Pelicans come to Cleveland tonight for the final game of a five game home stand for the Cavaliers. It hasn't gone particularly well for the Cavs thus far. Can they right the ship before it's too late? Tonight figures to be the type of game they need to win if they are serious about making the playoffs.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (18-25) at Cleveland Cavaliers (16-28)

When: 7:00 ET

Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio


The Pelicans

Those who know me know that I watch a lot of Pelicans basketball. They are a fun team to watch when you aren't really that attached to them. They have Anthony Davis, who has no ceiling whatsoever. He is 20 years old and averages 20 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks a game. I'm going to give you minute to think about that.

Okay, we are back? Yeah, so it's a team that has pieces that don't really fit together at all but the players are decent and can score in bunches. They have three ball dominant guards/wings in Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Eric Gordon, they don't have a strong defensive presence inside that can provide muscle (Davis isn't there yet) and with Ryan Anderson out they don't have enough shooting. If you want a really nice synopsis of some of their problems, check out this piece from The Bird Writes. A sample:

That's a question that's lingered in my mind for quite some time now. I'm a huge fan of the Anderson/Davis lineup because when the chips are down (i.e. the playoffs), that duo will be hard to defend even with the repetitive nature of the NBA playoffs. However, in order for that duo to go anywhere, it needs to be surrounded by the right perimeter players that can help it defend even at a league average rate. With NBA offenses growing in sophistication every year, the need for a sound defensive game plan and roster becomes even more important.

Personally, I believe that the three players that surround Anderson/Davis should be long, feisty and can defend the paint reasonably well. We have two of that -- Holiday and Evans. Gordon, on the other hand, doesn't. That's why I'm yearning for long defensive wings like Luol DengWilson Chandler or Gallinari (underrated as a defender).

It's hard to call the Pelicans weird roster construction a failure just yet. Davis, Holiday, Evans and Gordon are all young and still learning to play together. After losing their first eight games when Ryan Anderson went down, the Pelicans have won three of four. The Pelicans still have faint playoff hopes, and with their first round pick likely going to Philadelphia in the Jrue Holiday deal, have every incentive to try and get there.

This figures to be a high scoring affair, assuming the Cavaliers can bounce back from their second half against the Suns. The Pelicans are dead last in the NBA in defensive efficiency, and the Cavs are 19th. While the Pelicans are 10th in offensive efficiency, not having Ryan Anderson to spread the floor has hurt them a bit.

Jrue Holiday remains out indefinitely and 2nd year guard Brian Roberts has been starting in his place. Roberts is a Toledo and University of Dayton product who bounced around overseas before finally getting to the NBA last season. He is a serviceable backup point guard that can shoot, but not much more. His assist rate is down from last season, but his shooting numbers have held up and actually improved.

The Cavaliers, though

The Cavaliers played really well in the first half against the Suns. And that's all I have to say about that. Anderson Varejao is listed as questionable after hyper-extending his knee in the 4th quarter. If I had to guess, I would say that he will play, but I'm not a doctor.

The Cavaliers have to find a way to get Dion Waiters going. His minutes have been down and he isn't shooting well. He is too good for this to continue. Just a month ago I was writing about how his numbers were showing positive signs of progression. We have seen players like Kyrie Irving go through shooting slumps, so hopefully this is all nothing. But the Cavs want to win and they need his help to do it. He still has the 2nd most points of any Cavalier this year. That means that 1) Waiters is important to the Cavs and 2) the Cavs have to get Kyrie more help. Deng should help.

The Cavs have been tough to watch this year, but this game features Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving. That's worth getting excited about, as these guys might be the best the NBA has to offer in a few short years.

Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction: The Cavaliers play with some defensive intensity, win 106-96.