The Cavaliers hadn’t had an encouraging win since the All-Star break, but that changed on Monday night as Larry Nance went off and the Cavaliers handled the reeling Pistons with their re-made starting lineup. While it’s tempting to say that all is well in The Land™, the Cavaliers still don’t have a win against a playoff-quality team since the All-Star game. They’ll get another crack at the Nuggets as they begin a six-game road trip.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Denver Nuggets
When: 10:30 p.m. (JEEZ!)
Where: Pepsi Center - Denver, Colorado
Enemy Blog: Denver Stiffs
Online: Watch ESPN
Cavaliers injuries: Kevin Love (OUT - hand), Tristan Thompson (OUT - ankle), Jeff Green (PROBABLE - lower back)
Nuggets injuries: Tyler Lydon (OUT - knee)
Three keys to the game
- So, Larry Nance is just going to average 22 points and 15 rebounds for the rest of his Cavaliers career, right? Against the Nuggets, he has a tasty matchup with slow-footed Nikola Jokic, and with LeBron James currently starting at power forward, they can’t hide Paul Millsap on Nance. If the Cavaliers look to attack Jokic in space, transition and the pick and roll, Nance should have plenty of lob opportunities.
- Speaking of James at power forward, how will the Nuggets guard him? It’s a tough ask for Millsap to take on that job full time, but slotting him on Rodney Hood or J.R. Smith in the starting lineup while Wilson Chandler guards James doesn’t feel particularly tenable either. This is an advantage for the Cavaliers, and they should be able to generate consistent offense based on the mismatch. One thing to avoid, if you’re Cleveland: Please don’t just iso James against Millsap. Millsap can hold his ground there, but struggles when asked to navigate through a sea of screens. Make him guard the pick and roll, and there will be good shots available.
- Will the Cavs stop anybody on Denver? Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton absolutely lit Cleveland up to an embarrassing degree in their last game while shooting 54 percent from three. J.R. Smith, George Hill and Rodney Hood will all have to accept the challenge and do much better work than they did in their last meeting, especially off-ball, if the Cavaliers want to win.
I already covered it above, but the LeBron-to-power-forward move has been fascinating for matchups. We saw it play out against Blake and LeBron certainly held his own. He’ll try to do the same Wednesday night against Millsap.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
While you’re tempted to say that everything’s fixed, I’d still like to see the Cavs get a quality win against a new team. Nuggets win this one 114-106.