Should the Cleveland Cavaliers fire David Blatt?
That was the question that surrounded this team the last time the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers faced each other. The team was in flux and trying to right the ship after a prolonged period of losing. That night turned into a wild shootout where Kyrie Irving and LeBron James led the way to an impressive victory without Kevin Love. The Cavs haven't looked back since then and have won eleven straight games (note: they had beaten the Lakers the night before but, you know, it's the Lakers). That streak faces a serious test tonight because the Clippers have been very good.
Who? Los Angles Clippers (33-16) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (30-20)
When? 8:00 pm EST.
Where? Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio.
Where on my eyeballs? Oh hai TNT national broadcast.
Enemy Blog? Clips Nation
This game certainly has the potential to be a statement game for the Cavs. A nationally televised game against a fellow contender is always a prime opportunity to show the casual fan what you're made of. It also involves several head to head match-ups with some of the most talented players on the planet at their respective positions.
The one that jumps out immediately is the duel between Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul. Paul has been flying under the radar this season, but has still been as good as ever for the Clippers. He's a supremely talented guard that can have a large impact on the game through either his scoring, play-making, defensive presence or all three. On the other side, you have the twenty two year old Irving, who is trying to prove he belongs in the discussion as one of the best players at his position.
At power forward you have a battle between the new and improved Blake Griffin and the in need of rest Kevin Love. While Love's shooting numbers have been poor throughout the streak, his efforts on the glass, in creating spacing and ball movement have helped the team function at it's currently level. He's also played well on the defensive side of the floor for him. Making Griffin work on the defensive side of the floor will be key in limiting the amount of energy he has to expend on offense. While Paul is the general, Griffin is the catalyst for the energy that the Clippers are known for and his energy levels are usually and accurate barometer for how the team is going to perform.
As we saw in the first game between these teams, they are certainly capable of getting into a track-meet. Both teams feature a lot of offensive firepower, but if the Cavs want to win, they will be well served by limiting the amount of looks the Clippers get in transition and turning defensive stops into fast break chances. They will also need to be responsible with the ball and limit the amount of times they cough it up. Getting stops is nice, but you don't want to give the Clips extra possessions like they did in the first game.
While both teams have depth, the Cavs will need to find an answer for Matt Barnes. There's a mismatch at the small forward position and the Cavs will need to hope some guy named James will step up to the challenge.
Fear The Sword's Fearless Prediction:
The Cavs are able to keep the good times rolling and come away with a 107-102 victory. Fueled by a balanced performance from the big three and the Cavs debut of national TV Shump Day.