It’s a game between two good teams with the potential to be fairly ugly. The Cleveland Cavaliers welcome the Charlotte Hornets to Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night to complete the second leg of a home back-to-back. The Hornets travel to Cleveland after beating the Orlando Magic at home on Friday night. It was their third straight victory. With the Cavs missing a couple pieces, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of energy level they bring.
Who? Cavs vs. Hornets
When? 7:30 p.m.
Where? Cleveland, Ohio
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio
The Hornets remain one of the toughest teams in the East. They have a great point guard in Kemba Walker, who has picked up right where he left off following a breakthrough season in 2015-16. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is healthy and is the same defender you remember, or projected him to be. He’s tough and the motor doesn’t stop. Expect the Cavs to goad him into jump shots if they can, but he made a couple of them last night against the Magic.
With Kidd-Gilchrist and even Marvin Williams, the Hornets have options to go small and match up with LeBron James. These guys, of course, won’t win their battles with James, but they are bodies that can be thrown at him. The more curious case is Cody Zeller. Zeller had what was perhaps his worst game of the season earlier this year against the Cavs, but has generally been a helpful player for the Hornets. When he’s assertive rebounding the ball it helps to complement his all-around offensive game. Whether or not Tristan Thompson can effectively “bully” him a bit tonight will be interesting.
The Cavs will be without Channing Frye, and I’d expect J.R. Smith to still be out as well. DeAndre Liggins has filled in admirably for the Cavs of late. Can he sustain his play? Keeping his offensive usage low, keeping the ball moving, maybe hitting a couple threes while working defensively makes him a great fit with the starters, but this is the first time he’s been asked to sustain it at the NBA level. He may be on his way to earning a consistent rotation role.
I’m also still waiting to see if the Cavs can get a bit better when LeBron James rests. They are being outscored by 4.8 points per 100 possessions, per nba.com/stats, when he sits. That’s not terrible, really, but you’d like to see a bit better. Inconsistent performance from Richard Jefferson and Iman Shumpert (better of late), and disappointing play from Mike Dunleavy, have played a big part of that. You’d like to see Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love do a bit more as well.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction: Cavs win another one for the home crowd, 104-96.