After two close-ish games earlier this year in Cleveland, the Cavs head to Charlotte on New Year’s Eve to face the Hornets. Let’s preview!
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Charlotte Hornets
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Spectrum Center - Charlotte, North Carolina
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Enemy Blog: At The Hive
Music: Talk to Me - Run the Jewels
Keys to the game
- As far as we know, Kyrie Irving will play tonight after dealing with cramps against the Celtics. Assuming his status remains the same and he plays, it’ll be interesting to see how many minutes he plays. Ideally, he won’t play over 40 again minutes again unless the game goes to overtime. It’s not ideal, but maybe trying Kay Felder for eight minutes at point guard would be worth it if only to keep Irving’s minutes down.
- The Cavs should probably try to keep LeBron’s minutes down as well, as he played 44 minutes on Thursday. But again, it’s hard to know exactly how to do that. Without J.R. Smith, Richard Jefferson is less LeBron’s backup and more ‘fill in anywhere on the wing’ player. The possible solutions aren’t great - Mike Dunleavy and Jordan McRae haven’t exactly been good this year - but, again, playing them might be better than having the Cavs’ stars play a ton on minutes game after game.
- Speaking of Dunleavy, he hasn’t been good at all. For now, the best move might be to just try and play him consistently for a stretch of games and see if he can snap out of it. If he can become the player the Cavs hoped he’d be, he’s a really useful piece. If not, finding a wing becomes all the more important for David Griffin.
- In case you haven’t watched the Hornets, Kemba Walker is having an All-Star level season. With what he does so well - creating his own shot, operating in the pick and roll and doing so efficiently - Irving is going to be in for a test. At this times this year’s - including Thursday against Boston - we’ve seen Irving do some really good work on defense on and off the ball. He might need to do it for a whole game in order to fully slow down Walker.
- Quick Hornets stats: 14th in offensive rating, fifth in defensive rating and ninth in net rating at +2.6. Their net rating is the fourth in East behind the Toronto Raptors, Cavs and Milwaukee Bucks. It’s also .4 better than Boston’s.
- Standings watch: The Cavs are 2.5 up on the Raptors. Toronto is off tonight, so the Cavs could extend that lead to three games with a win. If the season ended today, Cleveland would face the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs and the winner of Hornets/Hawks in the second round.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Hornets are good, this is on the road and the Cavs’ depth might be a bit of an issue against a fairly deep team. That said, Cleveland is simply a better team.
Cavs 102, Hornets 101 with Kyrie sending the Cavs into the New Year with a game-winning three over Walker.