The Cleveland Cavaliers, a night after beating the Brooklyn Nets 91-78, the Cavs return home to take on the surging Los Angeles Clippers on national television. In an added twist, All-Star starters will be announced and there's a good chance the Cavs will have two starters announced.
Let's preview the action, shall we?
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Los Angeles Clippers
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio
Enemy Blog: Clips Nation
Music: Crutches, Crosses, Caskets - Pusha-T
Keys to the game
- Right now, the Cavs and Clippers are operating in roughly the same stratosphere of NBA teams that are really good, but aren't quite on the level of the Warriors and Spurs. They're similar in other ways too, as there seems to be some outside (and internal) pressure to win a title this year. The Clippers' window might a bit tighter than the Cavs - their core has been around longer, for one - but they aren't dissimilar.
- Both teams have been really good over the past month as well. Since Dec. 4, the Clippers have the league's fifth best net rating per the NBA's stats page. Since the 26th - the day Blake Griffin was ruled out with a partially torn right quadriceps - the Clippers have the NBA's best net rating and its a full 30 points better than the Cavs'.
- How the Cavs guard J.J. Redick figures to have a huge impact on how this game plays out. As written by SB Nation NBA's Jay Patt, Redick's been amazing while Griffin has been out and his shooting has kept Los Angeles afloat. His shooting not only gives the Clippers one of the best three-point threats in the league, but his shooting creates tons of space for Chris Paul inside. It also makes Paul/DeAndre Jordan pick and rolls all the more deadlier.
- For the Cavs to defend Redick, it'll require J.R. Smith to come in focused and energetic from the get-go. To defend Redick, and make his life as hard as possible, Smith is going to have to chase around Redick and get a hand up every time Redick comes off a screen. It also puts a lot of pressure on Timofey Mozgov inside to adequately stifle Jordan, who is an absolute bowling ball when he runs. For the year, Jordan 1.37 points per possession as a roll man, which puts him in the league's 98th percentile per the NBA's stats page.
- On a side note, if the Clippers do decide to blow it all up this summer, somehow landing Redick in a trade would be a dream scenario for the Cavs.
- Speaking of the Cavs, they beat the Nets last night pretty easily and did so in a way where every key player didn't have to play a ton of minutes. Kevin Love was the only Cavs starter to play over 30 minutes and perhaps most importantly, LeBron James only played just 29. Cleveland is going to take the floor on Thursday rested and that gives them an advantage over a Clippers team that is notoriously thin and tends to fade a bit over the course of four quarters.
- Additionally, Love was great against the Nets. He scored an efficient 17 points while pulling down 18 rebounds and had he played a little more, a 20-20 game wouldn't have been out of the question. Considering how bad he was against the Warriors, this was good to see. Maybe he can do more of the same against the Clippers, who don't of course don't have Griffin and lack anyone who can defend Love inside unless they decide to put Jordan on him and have someone else defend the Cavs' other big.s
- If you missed last night's game, here's a highlight video of Love, LeBron and Kyrie Irving from Dawkins.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction
This won't be an easy one for the Cavs. But in a game that, for better or worse, will shape our opinion of this team in some way, I think they get it done. Cavs 101, Clippers 97.
SB Nation's partner FanDuel is running a FREE money fantasy basketball league tonight. Half of the league win cash. Join now!