Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. San Antonio Spurs
When: 3:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, Ohio
Cavs injuries: Kevin Love (OUT - hand)
Spurs injuries: Kawhi Leonard (OUT - quad), Manu Ginobli (QUESTIONABLE - sternum)
Three Keys to the game
- For George Hill and Jordan Clarkson, this game will be a test of how well they are fitting in with the Cavs. Tony Parker isn’t at the peak of his powers anymore, and Dejounte Murray is still developing, but both are solid and both are competent NBA point guards that can press what have been weak points in the Cavs’ defense this year. Like in the Cavs’ win over the Thunder, this could be a game where Tyronn Lue plays whoever is playing better late if the game is close.
- This will be a game where Tristan Thompson will in the center of the action. For the year, LaMarcus Aldridge is posting up on 42.4 percent of his offensive possession and is averaging 0.99 points per possession, per nba.com/stats. And while that isn’t the most efficient offensive, it’s effective for the Spurs. If Thompson struggles, perhaps that means for more minutes for Larry Nance Jr. or smaller, quicker Cavs lineups where James move to the five.
- Since the new Cavs debuted on Feb. 10 in Boston, the Cavaliers have a defensive rating of 101.2 — good for fifth in the league over that stretch, per nba.com/stats. For the year, the Spurs are 16th in offense, per nba.com/stats, but are disciplined, don’t turn the ball over and are built to capitalize on lazy, undisciplined defense. If Cleveland is truly more engaged on defense, and is at least marginally better than it was before the deadline, this game should at least somewhat prove that.
This game is all about Tristan Thompson vs. LaMarcus Aldridge inside. Thompson has been up-and-down this season, and has had some defensive lapses since the trade, but also has also been better of late than he was earlier in the season. A strong performance against Aldridge on defense and on the glass would go a long way to squashing some doubts about his value on the Cavs moving forward. A bad game may only make calls for Nance to start louder, particularly if Nance plays well and Thompson doesn’t.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavs are coming off a good win against an admittedly bad Grizzlies team and it’d be surprising if they looked as bad as they did last time against the Spurs. Cavs 105, Spurs 101.