The Cleveland Cavaliers have won four straight games, and are humming quite nicely on offense thanks to one Kyrie Irving. If you haven't heard, Kyrie's scored 90 points in his last two games, with a 33-point outing against the Orlando Magic last night to follow his 57-point explosion against the Spurs. He's 11-12 from three over that span, and hasn't been anything short of amazing since he missed a couple of games two weeks ago with a shoulder strain. Can he keep it up tonight as the Cavs face Goran Dragic and the Miami Heat? That's the major question storyline tonight, one that surprisingly should overshadow LeBron playing against his former team.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat
When: 8:00PM ET
Where: American Airlines Arena - Miami, Florida
TV Coverage: ESPN
Enemy Blog: Hot Hot Hoops
Music: Reel Big Fish - "She's Famous Now"
Works on the LeBron (She used to be my girl) and Kyrie (Now they're falling at her feet) levels.
The Cavs should push the pace in transition. That's the easiest way for the Cavs to make the Heat uncomfortable. Miami's played at one of the slowest paces in the league this season, and they prefer to bog down possessions and try to work you to death with continuous offensive actions and execution. However, if you can get them to turn the ball over and get them into a track meet, they start making mistakes and can get out of their offensive sets. The Cavs are well equipped to take advantage of this, especially coming off the game against Orlando last night, where they were able to pound Orlando with transition buckets early. The Heat are a bad offensive rebounding team, ranking 26th in offensive rebounding rate, which should make this an even easier task for the Cavs.
Pack the Paint. Another good way to get Miami off balance: Disrupt the Heat's ability to get to the basket. The Heat are pretty good at hitting guys on cuts or getting good looks at the rim out of the pick and roll. However, if you pack it inside and bait them into three-point shooting, things can get ugly. Because my word, is this team ice cold from outside right now. Here are Miami's top three three-point shooters in their regular rotation over the last ten games:
Shabazz Napier (38.5 percent)
Tyler Johnson (37.5 percent)
Mario Chalmers (.......32.1 percent)
Other than that, they have Dwyane Wade's notoriously awful three-point stroke (25 percent); Luol Deng uncharacteristically chucking threes (3.8 attempts per game, hitting 26.7 percent); and Henry Walker, who's trying to be a three-point gunner and is shooting 26.5 percent on 6.8 attempts per game in his last ten games. That's part of how the Toronto Raptors beat Miami on Friday. They kept Miami on the perimeter more than they'd like, and the Heat hit just five of 23 attempts from outside. The Cavs would benefit from sagging off the Heat's perimeter threats a bit, and letting Miami try to beat them from outside.
BEEEEEEEEAAAAASSSSSSSS. Michael Beasley is also back in the fold, and playing a significant role for the Heat currently. In 23.6 minutes per game, he's shooting 43 percent from the field, 25 percent from three, has a usage rate floating near 25 percent, and torpedoes the Heat offense by 4.2 points/100 possessions when he's on the floor. He is a unicorn, and I hope that we get J.R./Beas PUJIT-off at some point in this game.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction: I expect this to be a lot like the Cavs' February 11th game against Miami, where they won 113-93 because Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson ate Miami alive on the glass, and the Heat were missing Wade. Now Wade is back but Bosh is out, which should exacerbate that issue. Cavs are on a back-to-back while Miami has three days rest, so I'll call it close, but Cavs 102, Heat 94 sounds right.