Well, the panic button appears to have been pressed. The Cavaliers are 3-5, have lost four in a row by mostly blowout margins to teams most expected to be among the worst that the NBA has to offer. Things don’t get easier on Friday, when the team heads to play the Wizards in primetime.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (3-5) at Washington Wizards (4-3)
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Capital One Arena
Enemy Blog: Bullets Forever
Online: Watch ESPN
Cavs injuries: Isaiah Thomas (OUT - hip), Iman Shumpert (OUT - right knee), Tristan Thompson (OUT - calf)
Wizards injuries: Otto Porter (PROBABLE - illness)
Three keys to the game:
- How is Tyronn Lue going to re-jigger the rotation (again)? Tristan Thompson is likely out or a month, which means the team is going back to the starting lineup featuring Jae Crowder at power forward and Kevin Love at center. Lue had mentioned that Channing Frye would get a chance for time, but he also said on Friday that we should expect rookies Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic to find playing time. Guys have been getting jerked around in a pretty major way this year, and it’s been hard to find rhythm.
- How much of a bloodbath is the matchup between each team’s starting lineup going to be if Otto Porter plays? Markieff Morris returns to the starting lineup for his first game since an operation on a sports hernia, but the four-man grouping of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat are just destroying teams. In 145 minutes, that group has a +20.9 net rating. Meanwhile, the 22 minutes that the Cavaliers starters have played (Small Sample Size alert!!), they have a -30.1 net rating. That is, uh, not good.
- Will this team put up a fight in defending the three point line? Washington is tied for 19th in the NBA with only 9.9 made threes per game. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers lead the league in allowing their opponents to make 14 threes per game against them. Washington has a few shooters in Porter, Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre. We’ll see if the Cavaliers have the wherewithal to actually prevent them from gunning from distance.
Kevin Love vs Marcin Gortat: Gortat is a rim-rolling terror in the pick and roll, and he’s developed great chemistry with John Wall. He’s uber-physical, and should give Love all he can handle. Love for his part can make Gortat’s life miserable if his jumper is falling. We’ll see if he’ll hold up defensively, or if the Cavs will have to turn to Ante Zizic to at least try to be physical.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
I’m not sure how you can feel comfortable picking the Cavs until they look better. Wizards 126, Cavaliers 114.