The Cavaliers have been nothing short of awful so far in this young season after two promising wins against the Celtics and Bucks. They’ve lost four of five, and the win in that stretch was a close game against the woeful Bulls. The team looks to get back on the right track against a suddenly red-hot Pacers team on the second half of a back-to-back.
Who: Indiana Pacers (4-3) at Cleveland Cavaliers (3-4)
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Quicken Loans Arena
Enemy Blog: Indy Cornrows
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass
Cavs injuries: Isaiah Thomas (OUT - hip), Iman Shumpert (OUT - right knee)
Pacers injuries: Myles Turner (OUT - concussion), Glenn Robinson III (OUT - left ankle), Domantas Sabonis (TBD - illness)
Three keys to the game:
- The Cavaliers are going to have to show some life in their transition defense game while they continue to work through early bumps in the offense that have come with integrating several new pieces into the rotation. Cleveland’s transition defense has always been terrible, mind you, but in years past, they’ve at least made shots on the other end that prevented the other team from running on them. This year, opponents are jumping out to huge leads on mostly wide open baskets earned simply by running at faster than a light jog. The Cavaliers have to make an effort to stop that.
- The Pacers have looked really solid this season, and despite trading Paul George, they picked up five or six genuine NBA players for their roster that can help almost any team. Sure, they’re star-less, but they’ve got real depth at multiple positions, and Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis are thriving in their new Russell Westbrook-less existence. Slowing those two down will be major for the Cavaliers, but there’s threats littered across the roster, even if there’s no blue-chipper.
- Will the real Tristan Thompson please stand up? The Cavaliers big man has two (2) rebounds in his last two (2) games. His energy has been atrocious, and I’m sorry to say that if Thompson isn’t playing with better energy than his counterparts on the court, he’s barely an NBA player. That’s no slight on Thomspon. His peak energy is better than the opposition’s, and he’s been an insanely valuable part of a championship team by focusing on what he does best. But so far this season, though, he’s been a disaster. He’s not the only problem, but yeesh, the box score has not lied when representing Thompson’s play so far.
J.R. Smith vs Victor Oladipo: Oladipo has been a revelation for Indy after being the source of much derision from the NBA blogosphere as the main haul for Paul George due to his hefty contract. Oladipo has averaged 24 points per game this season on 49 percent shooting from the field, and other wings like Tim Hardaway Jr. have torched the Cavaliers this year. Smith will draw the primary assignment, and he’ll have to try to coax an inefficient game out of Oladipo. We’ll see if the Cavaliers help is up for it. They haven’t been so far this season.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavaliers haven’t really shown much of a pulse this season. The team had an air-it-out meeting on Tuesday, but some of their problems go beyond what can be resolved in a short meeting. The Pacers are young and hungry, but they’re on the second half of a back to back. The Cavaliers need this win, and they know it, so they squeak one out. Cavs 114, Pacers 111.