Fresh off a close win against the Phoenix Suns, the Cleveland Cavaliers now face the Denver Nuggets to wrap up a short four-game road trip. The Cavs will do without Kyrie Irving - who was the hero of last night's win - and perhaps without LeBron James, who reportedly will take this game off to rest. After Tuesday's game, the Cavs will have off until a Saturday game at home against the Orlando Magic.
Denver, meanwhile, is coming off a close loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and haven't played since Sunday. They, however, aren't at full strength with Emmanuel Mudiay and Danilo Gallinari out with injuries. Mudiay, Denver's rookie point guard, is out with an ankle injury for at least another week, while Gallinari is out with an ankle injury of his own.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Denver Nuggets
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Pepsi Center - Denver, Colorado
Enemy Blog: Denver Stiffs
Music: Smoke Again - Chance the Rapper featuring Ab-Soul
Keys to the game
- Without Kyrie Irving in the lineup, Matthew Dellavedova is going to get the start at point guard and Mo Williams will probably get some time as well. Williams, since Irving has come back and he's dealt with his own injuries, is seemingly out of the rotation right now. It makes sense - Dellavedova has been really good this year and the Cavs' style and personnel doesn't call for three point guards in the rotation - but this game should showcase the depth the Cavs built up over the summer.
- Tristan Thompson will start at center and will probably do for the foreseeable future according to coach David Blatt. This makes sense, as Timofey Mozgov didn't play well at all as a starter and Thompson closes most games at center anyway. Mozgov, though, will be coming off the bench in his first game back in Denver since being traded to the Cavs last season.
- If LeBron joins Irving on the sideline, Richard Jefferson or Iman Shumpert could get the start at small forward. More importantly, however, it would mean a slight offensive shift for the Cavs. Dellavedova and Williams would bare the brunt of the Cavs' creating duties and Kevin Love would become the main offensive hub. Basically, the Cavs would look completely different without Irving and James on the floor.
- Speaking of Love, he said his hand was a non-issue after the game and attributed his hand issues to a stinger. During the second half, Love could be seen shaking his hand out and also had it wrapped on the sideline. If it's a non-issue and he looks fine tomorrow, that's a good thing. The hand Love injured was the one he broke as a member of the Timberwolves.
- If Love is good to go, this is a game he should shine in. The players Denver will use to guard him - Kenneth Faried, JJ Hickson and Darell Arthur - are players Love can dominate all over the floor. Additionally, a Love-Thompson duo up front should fair well against Denver's frontline.
- Despite injuries, Denver is just two games out the West's eighth seed. That's an accomplishment in itself and this team is going to come out an play hard. In terms of aggression and energy, this team is similar to the Blazers. And we know how that turned out for the Cavs when they came out flat.
- Reminder that Mike Miller plays for the Nuggets. Expect from interaction between him and LeBron one way or another.
- Recommended reading: Adam Mares' Nuggets first trimester grades for Denver Stiffs, Denver Stiffs' Daniel Lewis on why Will Barton is the NBA's sixth man of the year, HP's Quentin Rosbourogh on how the Nuggets got their swagger back, Zach Lowe's look at the Nuggets and Gallinari in the preason and SI's Chris Mannix profile of Mudiay from June
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction
The Cavs may be downa man or two here, but should have the tools to win a close game. Cavs 99, Nuggets 96.