There have been two teams playing on a transcendent level this season. The Golden State Warriors, defending champions, and the San Antonio Spurs, tireless juggernaut that reinvents itself and maintains continuity all at once year after year. The Cleveland Cavaliers, 33-12, are having an impressive season themselves. They can't boast the same gaudy point differential, and they certainly can't match the consistency of either, but they've had a nice season. The Cavs have won 3 of 4 under new head coach Tyronn Lue, and no one in the East seems ready to knock them off (Toronto's nice run notwithstanding).
So tonight, when the Cavs take on the Spurs, it presents a nice challenge. Tim Duncan won't be playing, but the Cavs will be playing on the second night of a back to back after being in Detroit last night. The first time the teams played was a tight one in San Antonio that the Spurs ultimately won. Tonight, the Cavs will try and defend their homecourt.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. San Antonio Spurs
When: 8:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio
Enemy Blog: Pounding the Rock
Music: Solsbury Hill - Peter Gabriel
Where do you start with the San Antonio Spurs? Kawhi Leonard is a bona fide top five NBA player, and does a ton to help his team win. He and Draymond Green are the easy favorites for Defensive Player of the Year, and he's a deadly three point shooter. He's expanded his game quite a bit and his usage rate continues to tick up. He doesn't turn the ball over, and his player efficiency rating of 25.7 is indicative of a player who has truly become a force offensively. The Spurs don't ask him to create a ton for others, but he balances low assist rates with an extremely small turnover rate.
The Spurs will miss Tim Duncan, who remains an elite defender when he plays. How Tony Parker withstands the passage of time, I don't know. He keeps on excelling well past when many thought he'd start to see signs of age. The Spurs don't lose much when they go to their bench, so the way Lue manages the Cavs bench units will be hugely important. As Tristan Thompson said last night in Detroit, the Spurs are a team that punishes you for mistakes. They are one of the best defensive teams ever. It's a nice test against a Cavs offense that has been fantastic of late.
Some Cavs notes. Kyrie Irving hasn't been consistent since he came back from injury, but LeBron James sure likes having him around:
LeBron James with Kyrie this season: 61.2 true shooting, 23.4 usage rate.— David Zavac (@DavidZavac) January 30, 2016
without Kyrie: 56.6 true shooting, 34.2 usage rate.
James' usage rate is down to 31.5 for the season and continues to fall. The Cavs pace hasn't really exploded since Lue took over, but it does seem that the Cavs are working to get downcourt and into their offensive sets earlier. Instead of stalling out for perimeter isolation plays after switches off pick and rolls, the Cavs are getting into secondary pick and rolls, swinging the ball, and finding mismatches in the post off the switches. Irving and Kevin Love were particularly good scoring in Detroit.
The Cavs will need that and more for the Spurs.