The Cleveland Cavaliers' trip to Florida didn't exactly end on a high note. Their 122-101 loss to the Heat wasn't pretty, but it makes sense. They were coming off a back-to-back, didn't get into Orlando until 5 a.m. the day before playing Miaimi and were playing their fifth game in seven games. There's a very good chance the Cavs looked so bad simply because of fatigue.
That, however, doesn't make the loss any less frustrating. The Cavs were reportedly silent in the locker room after the game and LeBron James called the Cavs' losing streak to the Heat 'concerning'. The Cavs have been off since Saturday, and perhaps with some needed rest, will get up for a game against a pesky Denver Nuggets squad that is coming off a road win against the Charlotte Hornets.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (49-20) vs. Denver Nuggets (29-41)
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio
When: 7 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Enemy Blog: Denver Stiffs
Music: The Return - Danny Brown featuring Freddie Gibbs
- The Nuggets aren't good - they are the No. 10 seed out West - but are young and feisty. Youngsters like Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris give them a young core that is rapidly improving now. Vets like Kenneth Faried and Will Barton (who should be getting some Sixth Man of the Year consideration) offer them steady play without being way, way older then Jokic, Mudiay and the rest. This team might not be good now, but they are on their way.
- They are also coached by Mike Malone, who has them playing hard almost every night and he lets the young guys play through mistakes most of the time. Take Mudiay, who can't really shoot yet, for instance. Other coaches would be giving Jameer Nelson more minutes, especially in the fourth. Not Malone, who has let Mudiay largely play through the peaks and valleys all rookies go through sans a short period earlier in the season.
- Jokic might be the best of the bunch, Mudiay has a ton of upside, but Jokic might be their center of attention moving forward. He's skilled inside, has good defensive instincts for a rookie and is a good passer. If there's one Nuggets player to watch Monday, it's him.
- Denver's success of late has come from using two-point guard lineups and playing their young guys more as noted by Denver Stiffs Manager Adam Mares. It's a style that maybe can give the Cavs problems and it's also why they've impressively been pretty decent after losing Danilo Gallinari for the year due to an ankle injury.
- For the Cavs, this importance of this game is simple. A win cleanses the pallet from Saturday's loss and also gives the Cavs a slight boost in the standings. Entering Monday's action, the Toronto Raptors are just a game behind the Cavs in the East. The good news for Cleveland is that Toronto doesn't have a game on Monday, meaning a loss wouldn't cost the Cavs the East's No. 1 seed. The issue, though, is that if the Cavs lose, Toronto could jump ahead Wednesday when both teams are in action. And remember: the Raptors have the tiebreaker over the Cavs due to winning the season series 2-1.
- It should also be interesting to see who starts at center for the Cavs. Kevin Love started there on Saturday and it went awfully. Just a guess, but here's betting Timofey Mozgov starts vs. Jokic, as Tyronn Lue doesn't like Tristan Thompson to bang with centers for long stretches. If I could pick. I'd start Channing Frye and bring Thompson off the bench.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction
The Cavs might have a little trouble with Denver, but they should win here easily. Cavs 103, Denver 91.
Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that the Cavs didn't get into Miami until 5 a.m. the day o f the game. The Cavs got into Orlando at 5 a.m., not Miami.