The Cavaliers won a thriller against the Pacers last night. But tonight, they have to follow that win up against another Eastern Conference playoff team in the Hornets on the road. Are they up to it?
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (8-23) at Charlotte Hornets (14-15)
When: 7:00 p.m.
Where: Spectrum Center — Charlotte, North Carolina
Enemy Blog: At The Hive
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass
Cavs injuries: Tristan Thompson (out - foot sprain), Kevin Love (out - foot), Jordan Clarkson (TBD - lower back rest), John Henson (out - wrist), J.R. Smith (out - not with team)
Hornets injuries: None
Three keys to the game
Will Kemba Walker keep struggling? Walker started off the year hot, but has cooled off of late and just recently had a four-point scoring night against the Lakers. The Cavs shouldn’t assume he’ll be that bad, especially when they are relying on Collin Sexton (who is a rookie and thus bad at defense) to defend him for at least part of the game. But the Cavs’ chances of winning get a lot better if Walker isn’t at his best or close to it.
Energy levels. Cleveland played a close game in Indianapolis on Tuesday and immediately headed to Charlotte to play tonight. Such is life in the NBA, but this is a Cavs team that may be especially hindered by the second night of a back-to-back. They played nine guys against the Pacers, but a few caveats with that: 1. Channing Frye only played six minutes, 2. Matthew Dellavedova is on a minutes restriction and 3. seven players played the bulk of the minutes. This is a group that is not healthy or deep and especially if Clarkson isn’t good to go, it might be a tired group. The Hornets, by the way, did not play on Tuesday and have been off since Dec. 15.
Rodney Hood was solid against the Pacers. Tuesday was not his best shooting night, but he was aggressive in getting to free throw line eight times. Even when some of his jump shots aren’t falling and he misses some shots near the rim, he becomes infinitely more useful to the Cavs’ offense when he’s doing a better job of drawing fouls. Especially if Clarkson is out, Cleveland needs Hood (and Alec Burks, who went back to a bench role on Tuesday) to be aggressive and create shots.
The Cavs enter tonight’s game with the NBA’s fourth-worst record at 9-23. If the season ended today, they would have a 48.1 percent chance of landing a top-three pick and a 12.5 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick.
Larry Nance Jr. was fantastic against the Pacers’ duo of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner even before he tipped in the game-winner. Against the Hornets, he’s getting another challenge in Cody Zeller. The better Zeller brother is more of a bruiser than Turner and is the size of center Larry Drew has sometimes opted to play Ante Zizic against instead of Nance. But a) Nance is just better than Zizic and b) how can you not start him after how he played?
Against Zeller, he has to be as good as he was against the Pacers. If he can win the battle, and gobble up rebounds the same way he did on Tuesday, he can give the Cavs a shot.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Hornets are on a two-game losing streak, but are coming into this rested whereas the Cavs are not. Charlotte, 105, Cleveland 96.