Coming off 1-2 stretch, the Cavs head to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans — the site of an angry LeBron James rant from last season. The hope is that tonight goes a little bit better than that.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. New Orleans Pelicans
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Smoothie King Center — New Orleans, Louisiana
Enemy Blog: The Bird Writes
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass
Cavs injuries: Isaiah Thomas (OUT - right hip), Derrick Rose (TBD - left ankle sprain), Dwyane Wade (TBD - left knee contusion)
Pelicans injuries: Anthony Davis (QUESTIONABLE - left knee/quad tendinitis), Rajon Rondo, (OUT - hernia), Alexis Ajinca (OUT - knee), Omer Asik (OUT - illness), Solomon Hill (OUT - left hamstring tear), Frank Jackson (OUT - right foot fracture)
Three keys to the game
- Over the last three games, the Cavs have been done in by three-point shooting, as the Nets, Bulls and Magic all hit 17 three pointers. In theory, this shouldn’t be as big of a concern against the Pelicans, who are 13th in the league in three-point shooting as of Saturday, and lack shooting on the wing. This has been something Tyronn Lue has talked about since the team’s losses, too, so let’s see if the Cavs defend the three-point line better in New Orleans. This will be a particular challenge for Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love, both who will defend bigs who can, and will, shoot threes.
- With the Cavs running out a new starting lineup again, how will Lue manage the team’s rotation? He said at media availability on Friday that Crowder would check in around the six minute mark, but did not say for who. He’ll also have to decide when Dwyane Wade checks in, who he centers bench lineups around and more. This is likely to still be a work in progress, but tonight is the first part of the process.
- The Cavs’ ability to control this game will come on the defensive class. Per cleaningtheglass.com, Cousins is the 75th percentile of offensive rebounders in the NBA, while Davis is in the 69th percentile. When even one is on the floor, the Cavs will have to work to keep the Pelicans from getting second chance opportunities. Love and Thompson have both been good on the defensive glass this season, but how will Cleveland fare when one, or both, sit? LeBron James is in the 92nd percentile among wings, but Crowder is in the 11th percentile among forwards, per cleaningtheglass.com. Let’s see how the Cavs manage, as struggling on the defensive glass could stop the team from pushing the pace off of defensive rebounds as much as they have in the first five games of the season.
How Thompson and Love handle Cousins and Davis is key. Love is likely to start on Cousins, and while he’s capable of dealing with bigger centers, Cousins is going to have a major size advantage and is off to a strong start. Can Love stay out of foul trouble? Davis, if he plays, will be much longer than Thompson and will force Thompson away from the rim. When the Cavs are on offense, Thompson will have to crash the offensive glass and make them work. And Love will need to hit threes — something he hasn’t done yet this season — and force whoever is guarding him out of the paint. This chess match should be fascinating.
Fear the Sword’s Fearlesss Prediction
There will likely be some clunky moments for the Cavs in this game and they’re up for a challenge on defense. But they should be better. Cavs 107, Pelicans 101.