The Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the hottest teams in the league heading into their Christmas Day matchup against the Golden State Warriors. Since that point, the team has lost seven of their last nine games and are struggling to find an identity, while integrating new pieces. Heading into a marquee matchup on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we get to see what happens when a movable force meets an unstoppable object.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (26-160 vs. Golden State Warriors (35-9)
When? 8 p.m. Eastern
Where? Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Where on my eyeballs? TNT
Cavaliers Injuries: Derrick Rose - ankle (OUT), Iman Shumpert - knee effusion (OUT)
Warriors Injuries: Omri Casspi - Back Soreness (QUESTIONABLE)
It is unfortunate that we will not get a true measuring stick game between these two teams during the regular season. Isaiah Thomas is still nowhere near game shape, nor has he found his rhythm. The Cavs signature January malaise has been worse than usual, as a result of their attempts to figure out their rotation with close to a full squad.
While the odds of either team showing their full hand in the regular season are slim, it still would have been nice to see both teams have one clash before the playoffs where both teams are rolling.
That being said, there are some things working in the Cavs favor heading into this game. Like Christmas Day, the Warriors will be playing their third game in four nights while the Cavs are coming off two days of rest. Cleveland having an opportunity to game plan for this matchup and practice to work through some kinks may result in a more inspired effort than we’ve seen from the team lately.
Even though this game won’t tell us much about how these teams will play in June, there are still a few things that are worth keeping an eye on.
Kevin Love was one of the Cavs few reliable performers on Christmas Day, and will look to keep his strong play going on Monday night. Without Stephen Curry, the Warriors didn’t put Love into pick and roll situations to try and make him work in space. With Curry back, it’ll be interesting to see if the Warriors change up their plan of attack. Love did have success on both ends at times in last year’s Finals, so it’ll be interesting to watch and see how he performs defensively while trying to score on Draymond Green at the other end.
Speaking of defense, Jae Crowder gave one of his most encouraging performances on that end of the floor on Christmas Day. Nobody is going to shut down Durant, but he took away his airspace at times and limited him to 25 points on 8-19 shooting. With so few defensive options on the Cavs roster, this a trend that needs to continue if the team is going to have any shot at a title in June.
But more than anything, this game presents the Cavs with a reason to get up for a game. The lack of effort has amplified the issues with this team and made integrating their new pieces even more difficult. If a game against the Warriors helped put them into this spiral, maybe it can help pull them out.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
It’s hard to imagine that the Cavs can pull this one off unless Isaiah Thomas goes off like he did against Portland. His play will likely be the barometer for the Cavs, because it’s unlikely that the defense will be able to contain the Warriors and keep the score low. If they can get their offense back on track, they’ll have a chance. But given the play of the team recently, I think the Cavs will lose 120-111.