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Cavaliers vs. Heat: game preview, start time, TV information

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It’s the Cavs and Heat again. How will the Cavs look this time?

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

So, the Cavs face the Heat tonight after losing to them on Friday. Long time Cavalier and noted franchise legend Dwyane Wade makes his return too. Oh, and Dion Waiters might play for the Heat. This might be fun?

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (8-29) vs. Miami Heat (17-16)

When: 7:00 p.m. EST

Where: Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, Ohio

Enemy Blog: Hot Hot Hoops

TV: Fox Sports Ohio

Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass

Cavs status updates: Kevin Love (OUT - left foot surgery), John Henson (OUT - left wrist surgery), Tristan Thompson (QUESTIONABLE - left foot sprain), JR Smith (NWT), Rodney Hood (QUESTIONABLE - left Achilles tendon soreness), David Nwaba (OUT - left ankle sprain), Ante Zizic (OUT - right knee soreness)

Heat status updates: Dion Waiters (QUESTIONABLE - ankle), Gorgan Dragic (OUT - knee surgery)

Three keys to the game:

  1. How will the Cavs handle the Heat’s zone defense? When these two teams played on Friday in Miami, zone defense doomed the Cavs’ offense. An offense that is anemic on a good night became utterly lifeless and had no counters to the zone. The Cavs finished the game with an 87.1 offense rating in the half court, per Cleaning The Glass. Considering the success his team had with it on Friday, it seems likely that Erik Spoelstra will go back to it and make the Cavs beat it. So, what exactly will Larry Drew do about it? He talked after the Heat loss about he needed to prep the team better for zone. So, now’s the time.
  2. The Cavs’ bench has to be better. On Friday, no Cavs bench player finished with a positive plus-minus. By comparison, every Heat bench player finished with a positive plus-minus ranking. Specifically, Bam Adebayo had his way with the Cavs running the floor, dunking and gobbling up rebounds. Issues with zone defense aside, Cleveland’s bench has to hang better if they want a win. Getting some players back so Jalen Jones doesn’t play 23 minutes would help too.
  3. Turnovers hurt the Cavs on Friday too. The Heat scored 22 points off of Cavs turnovers on Friday, compared to the eight points Cleveland scored off of Miami turnovers. The disparity here does somewhat come from how much Cleveland struggled with Miami’s zone, but there has to be a reality where it can take care of the ball and not be confounded by a defense, even if it’s a really good one.

Key Matchup

Collin Sexton vs. the Heat’s defense will define Cleveland’s offense. Part of the reason the Heat’s defense works so well against the Cavs is that the Heat know he won’t shoot three-pointers unless he has to. And if he does take them, Miami can bet he won’t make enough of them to make them alter their defensive strategy.

Miami’s deep group of long-armed defenders makes Sexton’s life even tricker because players like Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder and Justise Winslow are all long enough and quick enough to contest his drives well. So, if Cleveland wants a shot at winning this game, Sexton has to play well and get clean looks off against these defenders in man defense and the entire team in zone. He has to pick his spots well and know exactly what is a good shot, as hard as that is. On Friday, he finished 2-10 from the field and 1-4 from three. Sexton also had three assists vs. three turnovers.

Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction

The Heat are just better than the Cavs. Heat 107, Cavs 93.