The Cavaliers haven’t exactly looked great doing it, but they’ve won two in a row after tight wins against the Mavericks and Knicks. They look to inch over .500 for the first time since the second game of the season with a win against the Hornets on Wednesday night.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Charlotte Hornets
When: 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Spectrum Center — Charlotte, North Carolina
Enemy Blog: At the Hive
Cavs injuries: Isaiah Thomas (OUT - hip), Tristan Thompson (OUT - left calf), Derrick Rose (TBD - ankle sprain/soreness)
Three Keys to the game
- The Hornets are in free-fall, having lost four straight amid a tough schedule featuring tilts against the Spurs, Wolves, Knicks and Celtics (though Boston was without Kyrie Irving for most of the game). The cavalry is coming though: Nicolas Batum is set to make his season debut after missing the front end of the season with an elbow injury and is expected to start for the Hornets. Batum can pass, shoot, and create with the ball, and he’ll help juice a Hornets offense that can be over-reliant on Kemba Walker.
- Speaking of Kemba, the Cavaliers will have their hands full trying to contain him. Iman Shumpert will draw the assignment as he continues to be the team’s primary starting point guard with Derrick Rose hurt. Kemba will never get the recognition he deserves given how boring Charlotte is to watch, but he’s certainly not the reason why. Corralling him in the pick and roll and not allowing him to go off from three will be hugely important.
- Will Kevin Love be able to win the rebounding battle against Dwight Howard? Dwight isn’t the player he used to be, but he’s still a bear on the boards, averaging 13.2 on the season in just 30 minutes per game. Love has struggled at times with bulkier centers and the team will likely miss Tristan Thompson in this matchup. Ultimately, he’s going to have to make sure his jumper is going and he’s able to exploit the fact that Dwight will want to linger in the paint.
If LeBron isn’t engaged defensively, the Cavaliers could have a hard time containing Batum. He’s a super well-rounded player that can kill you if you’re not paying attention, and it’ll be either James or Crowder that draws the assignment. This Hornets team isn’t great, but they’ve got weapons across their roster that can hurt you in a very specific way. The Cavs haven’t been great at stopping anyone this year, so don’t be shocked if the Hornets manage a strong night offensively.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavs are finding a little bit of rhythm, even if it comes in fits and starts. They win this one, 104-97.