Currently on a four game winning streak, the Cleveland Cavaliers play a second straight game at home and take on the Charlotte Hornets. Iman Shumpert may make his debut in his game, as he has gone through a full practice this week. A win would give Cleveland its second longest winning streak of the season.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Charlotte Hornets
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio
Television Information: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Music: Lance Stephenson - Hot Boy
Charlotte is as healthy as its been in weeks. On Wednesday, the Hornets had Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson back, although Jefferson only played limited minutes after returning Monday from a groin injury. For Charlotte, the return of its best two players could not come at a better time. Despite some major early season struggles and a roster that struggled to come together with a lack of spacing, the Hornets are in the thick of the playoff race. After the Hornets' win last night, Charlotte is tied with Brooklyn Nets for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
On top of that, Charlotte is only four games back of the Milwaukee Bucks and five games back of the Cavaliers. If healthy and able to get on a roll, the Hornets are still very much in the running for a strong playoff positioning. From the Cavs perspective, this is a game that, with the rest of January featuring a mix of some of the NBA's best teams and some streaking teams, should be a must win and a nice addition to Cleveland's current winning streak.
The last time the Cavs played the Hornets, the Cavaliers had one its best offensive quarters of the season. Cleveland jumped out to a 34-17 lead in that game and ultimately won by a final score of 97-88 behind 27 points from LeBron James. Cleveland's scoring that game actually wasn't all that efficient; the Cavs made 38-83 total shots, made 9-24 threes and shot 70.6 percent from the line in that game.
The crazy thing here is that the Cavs could be overall better in this game. The looks Cleveland will be getting should be relatively similar looks against Charlotte, as the Hornets best defender (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) will be on James and everywhere else features matches the Cavaliers can exploit. For instance, the Cavaliers could lean on Kevin Love in the post as he's defended by Marvin Williams.
Overall, this should be a nice game for the Cavaliers. In particular, both Love and Kyrie Irving should be posed for big nights. Love, who while dealing with some back issues has struggled to get his shot going over the past five games, should be able to get consistently good looks against Williams. The same goes for Irving, who historically has performed well against Walker. The Cavs haven't run as many pick and rolls this season - and when they do the play is typically a simple high pick and roll - but the Cavs could manipulate these match-ups by running pick and and rolls (and pops) with Love and Irving. This could be particularly effective when LeBron isn't on the floor.
One note about Irving: Coming into tonight's game, the Cavs are on averaging 14.9 more points per 100 possession with Irving on the floor than without per Basketball Reference. That's 4.9 points higher than LeBron.
Fear The Sword's Fearless Prediction
This should be a highly winnable game for the Cavaliers. Charlotte has improved, sure, but the Cavs are playing some excellent basketball at the current moment. Offensively, the Cavs are clicking and showing some real signs of defensive improvement. All things consider, I'll take the Cavs 104, Hornets 95.