The injuries on the Cavaliers are really catching up to them at this point. After a short spirited stretch, the team is really struggling to compete on a night-to-night basis. They are running out players like Jalen Jones and Jaron Blossomgame in rotation minutes, and it’s not like the top of the rotation is laden with All-Stars either. It all adds up to a plucky team that’s going to do their damndest to compete but will fall short most nights.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (8-27) vs. Miami Heat (16-17)
When: 8:00 p.m.
Where: American Airlines Arena — Miami, Florida
Enemy Blog: Hot Hot Hoops
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass
Cavs status updates: Tristan Thompson (out - foot sprain), Kevin Love (out - foot), John Henson (out - wrist), J.R. Smith (out - not with team), Rodney Hood (out - Achilles), David Nwaba (out- left ankle sprain), Ante Zizic (questionable - knee)
Heat status updates: Dion Waiters (out - rehab assignment), Goran Dragic (out - knee)
Three keys to the game
- Cooling down the Hot, Hot Heat
The Cavaliers need luck on their side to compete most nights, and facing a slumping team normally does wonders. The Heat are...not slumping. They’d won five in a row before they took Toronto to the wire in a tight two point loss. Ideally you’d hope for a let down game, but it’ll be hard to ask for at this point.
2. The Young Core
Nobody loves to dog Heat Culture more than this writer, but it’s worth noting just how well two of their development projects are playing. Josh Richardson has been their best player all season, flashing the kind of two-way play that made him an enviable trade target in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes earlier in the year, but to some extent, his growth has been expected. Justise Winslow has been the player who has seemingly taken a mini-leap as of late. Winslow has averaged a shade under 15 points per game in December, having topped 20 points five different times.
His three-pointer is the real story — in December, he’s shooting 45 percent on five attempts per game. If that’s even close to reality, then the Heat have the player they hoped for when they drafted Winslow in 2015.
3. Can Sexton find some momentum?
Collin Sexton’s really struggled as of late, but found late life in the fourth quarter against the Grizzlies. The Heat are another team with a ton of length that tends to bother Sexton, but he needs to find a way to earn trips to the line and make the basic reads to get his teammates open shots more often than he has been. If he build on what he did in the fourth quarter against Memphis, he might be able to find his way again.
Larry Nance Jr. will have his hands full on the boards with Miami’s large and athletic bigs. Ante Zizic is dealing with lingering injury problems, so whether he plays or not, Nance will have a ton of responsibility on his shoulders to keep the boards clean and to stay out of foul trouble. We’ll see how he does.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Heat are hot, and the Cavs are terrible and depleted. This is a blowout winner as Miami earns the 119-104 win.