For every problem the Cleveland Cavaliers have had so far, those problems at least feel fixable. And, if the Cavs' last two performances are any indication, they might be closer to being fixed than we thought. The Indiana Pacers, however, might not be so lucky.
The Pacers' struggles have been well chronicled and rather predictable. The Pacers best three players (even removing Paul George from the equation) - Roy Hibbert, David West and George Hill - have all battled injuries this season. West returned last night against the Bucks, while Hill has yet to play a game this season due a torn quad. That being said, Indiana is somehow 6-9 with wins against the Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls on its resume. That doesn't have Indiana in the playoffs at this point, but with everything that's gone wrong, 6-9 isn't all that bad.
What: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena
Television: Fox Sports Ohio
Television Clip: Roy Hibbert on Parks & Recreation
Due to Park and Rec's existence, it's too hard to pick a song for this game. Instead, he's Roy Hibbert working at Entertainment 720 from NBC's Park & Rec. And as a bonus, here's Detlef Schrempf stuffing Jean Ralphio.
Indiana's offense is downright terrible and even uglier than last year's. Through the first 15 games of the seasons, Indiana top three scorers in terms of total points this season are Solomon Hill, Donald Sloan and Chris Copeland. In case you were wondering, Luis Scola is fourth, while offseason acquisitions C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey are tenth and 11th, respectively.
Miles and Stuckey's troubles are particularly worrisome. The two wings were brought in this offseason to, in theory, replace Lance Stephenson's ball creating abilities. When Paul George went down, the duo became Indiana's best creators by default. Through 15 games, however, both players are in the bottom three in terms of field goal percentage. Miles is shooting a team worst 25.6 percent in the eight games he has played, while Stuckey is shooting 38.1 percent. With both having missed time, it makes perfect sense that Indiana has an offensive rating of 101.7, which puts them at 24th in the league. That puts them well below the league average of 106. If anything, this should be a game where the Cavs can get some confidence defensively. The Pacers, in fact, don't have a single player healthy that can actually give the Cavaliers fits and change the outcome of the game - although it would be fair to expect Kevin Love to struggle with a healthy West on the block.
The Pacers, however, are a very good rebounding team. Indiana pulls down 45.8 rebounds per game, which is good for third in the league. Perhaps most impressive is that his been done without West, who has averaged 7.2 rebounds per game over the course of his career. Led by Hibbert, the Pacers rebound excellently as a team have give players, all of which are big men, who average over five boards a team. The Cavs, by comparison, are 24th in the league in rebounds per game, although Cleveland does have four players who average more than five rebounds per game.
When you break it down further, the Pacers' bigs are excellent at nabbing a fair amount of their rebounding opportunities. For example, Hibbert pulls down 15.5 percent off all possible rebounds as of Thursday and he's fifth on the team in TRB%. The Cavs have five players with a similar TRB%, but only three - Love, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao - play noteworthy minutes. When paired with Indiana still very good defense (the Pacers allow 104.2 points per 100 possessions as of Thursday, which places them at tenth in the NBA) and the Pacers' willingness to play at a slow place, you can find a path to victory for Indiana, even if it is very narrow.
Cleveland is going for it's second three game winning streak of the season. Considering that the Cavs are going for this winning streak after an ugly four game losing streak, this could be a sign that the Cavs are starting to click. Two blowout wins would help that.
It's also worth noting that this could, and perhaps should, be the start of an extended winning steak. After the Pacers, the Cavs play the Bucks at home and then the Knicks in New York. From there, the Cavs head to Toronto and Brooklyn before playing the Raptors at home on Dec. 8. In that span, the Cavs play only one team - the Raptors - that is a true contender in any sense of the word.
And perhaps if Cleveland can use the next few games to get more comfortable with one another and iron out some issues, it can head into the Raptors games looking strong and perhaps win both. Also of note: The Dec. 8 game against the Raptors will be the Cavs' 20th game of the season, just one game shy of the season's quarter mark.
Fear The Sword's Fearless Prediction The Cavs should blow the Pacers out much in the same way the Cavs blew out the Magic and Wizards. If the Cavs can get out in space, this game should get out of hand quickly. Cavs 107, Pacers 92. .