To say last night went poorly for the Cleveland Cavaliers last night would be an understatement. In a 101-82 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Cleveland played its worst game of the young season. The defense struggled to contain Portland's offense for any long stretch and the offense was often stagnate. Both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James struggled to get into any sort of an offensive rhythm as Portland cruised. The only positive was that Kevin Love again had an excellent game, scoring 22 points and making shots from all over the floor.
The Cavs, however, will get a chance to move past that loss today when the team takes on the Utah Jazz. It might be the the perfect bounce back game for the Cavs, as the Jazz give up over 105 points per game. The figure puts the Jazz near the bottom of the league.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Utah Jazz
When: 9 p.m. ET
Where: Energy Solutions Arena - Salt Lake City, Utah
Where to watch: Fox Sports Ohio
C.J. Miles freestyles on the radio
If you remember, Miles released a mixtape under the moniker Masfresco while with the Cavs and his rapping began when he played for the Jazz. In picking a song by or featuring former Cavs and Jazz players, this was a the choice over a 2011 Twista song that features Carlos Boozer.
Both David Blatt and Quin Snyder are rookie head coaches. They also come from very different backgrounds, as Blatt has been overseas for years and Snyder worked his way up first in the college ranks and then the NBA followed with the D-League and overseas stint mixed in for good measure. Where these two men are the same, however, is with their respective offensive philosophies. Both offenses are predicated on motion, timing and passing - hallmarks of the coaches they themselves were mentored by. Blatt, of course, played for Pete Carill at Princeton. Snyder was a point guard for Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils in the late 1980s.
If anything, we can use this game as a future point of reference for Blatt. Cleveland and Utah don't play again until January 21st in Cleveland and Blatt is surely to be a different coach by then. As he's admitted in the media, he hasn't figure out how to manage the rotation yet and there could be some tactical differences then as well. For instance, the Cavs have been very aggressive in defending pick and rolls so far, which in turn leaves them vulnerable inside if teams can beat the ball inside before the Cavs rotate. Even then, with no rim protection to speak of, the Cavs put themselves in a tough spot.
It will be also worth noting how the Cavs' offense changes between now and then. Through three games, the Cavs have stopped running plays for long stretches and run a lot of isolation plays, which is basically the opposite of what Blatt is known for. The Cavs have also struggled to to find scoring when LeBron, Love and Irving are off the floor. In those scenarios, Dion Waiters becomes the primary option and is the only player on the floor who can create his own shot. Perhaps we will begin to see the trio's minutes staggered leading into the fourth quarter in an attempt to give the Cavs' offense more stability.
It's a small sample size, but Derrick Favors looks much improved this season. As of Tuesday night, Favors was averaging 17.8 points per game and shooting 58.3 percent from the field - both of which are well above his career highs - and he's putting up this numbers playing essentially the same minutes per game as last year. Overall, Favors looks like he's taken a big step forward this year and is beginning to live up to the potential that earned him a roughly $46 million dollar contract.
For the Cavs, this means winning this game will require slowing down Favors on both ends of the floor. Defensively, Favors is a decent rebounder but not necessarily a good defender. He had a defensive rating of 107 last year and isn't particularly quick. He also doesn't block shots, as he's only averaged 1.3 per game over the course of his career. Either Kevin Love or Anderson Varejao should be fine against him and Tristan Thompson can probably get some easy buckets in transition. The tricky part will be on defense, where only Varejao has the right blend of size, tenacity and quickness to defend Favors. This becomes even more complicated when you consider that the Jazz this year have used reborn 3-point shooter Trevor Booker to space the floor and isolate Favors inside.
The Jazz have an interesting offense. With Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Dante Exum handling the two guard sports, the Jazz have a talented group of young guards. Exum is the player with the most upside of three, but Burks is the best of the trio at this point. He can handle the ball a bit and, while still a bit of mystery is a decent shooter. But all three guards are comfortable with the ball in their hands, as is Gordon Hayward. As this video from Coach Nick shows, the Jazz's offense features a lot of movement and passing. The Cavs are going to have to work and be smart to defend this Jazz team adequately.
One thing that stands out amongst the movement is the high amount of picks the Jazz set within its offense. So far this season, the Cavs have shown to be a highly aggressive team against pick and rolls, which forces the whole defense to be on the same page with rotations. With the Jazz having several good ball handlers, the Jazz offense should be a good test for the Cavs defense. In this case, you could make the argument that Blatt would be smart to give Matthew Dellavedova some extended minutes next to Irving, as he'll be able to chase the Jazz's guards around the floor as they try to get open looks and/or set up Favors, Hayward and company.
Fear The Sword's Fearless Prediction
This could be a trap game for the Cavs. Utah is improved, it's the second game on a West Coast back-to-back and it's still early in the season for a Cavs team that needs time to mesh. Still, the Cavs do matchup well with Utah and are a far better team. With LeBron, Love and Irving leading the way, Cleveland's offense should be able to score at will. Even if Cleveland gives up a lot of points, this is a game it should win with some sense comfort. Cavs 107, Jazz 99.