Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (8-31) vs. Indiana Pacers (26-13)
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, Ohio
Enemy Blog: Indy Cornrows
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), JR Smith (NWT), David Nwaba (OUT - left ankle sprain), Ante Zizic (OUT - right knee soreness), Rodney Hood and Matthew Dellavedova (day-to-day)
Pacers status updates: Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, and Myles Turner (day-to-day)
Three keys to the game:
- Can the Cavs play a full game? Lately, the Cavs have been able to be mostly competitive in first halves — and then the bottom falls out after halftime. Will this continue? The Cavs can be at their best and still lose to the Pacers, who are a good team, but a one-half performance will not be anywhere near enough. As of Jan. 7, the Pacers had the league’s fourth best winning percentage. Are they that good? Probably not, but it speaks to their consistency and skill that they’ve put themselves in this position. Their net rating is actually third in the NBA, and they’re just a tenth of a point per 100 possessions behind the Boston Celtics for second. The Cavs recent form gives them an opportunity to jump those Celtics on Tuesday night. But hey — the Cavs nine game losing streak was preceded by a win over the Pacers. Crazier things have happened.
2. How far are the Cavs away from being healthy? Tristan Thompson is back, but we’ve seen over the last couple years that the difference between healthy and not-healthy Tristan is extremely important. He’s valuable when he’s in good shape, but when his energy and athleticism are compromised things can get ugly in a hurry. Dellavedova, likewise, is on the edge of being just athletic enough to hang in the NBA when healthy, and, well, not. Neither should really play if they aren’t fully ready to go. It’s easy to be negative about the Cavs, and the roster isn’t good, and the young players aren’t developing like you’d want, but it’s fair to take a step back and realize the team has been hurt by the injury bug all year.
3. Can the Cavs score? The Pacers boast the league’s second best defense. The Cavs’ leading scorer is Jordan Clarkson. Collin Sexton seems to have hit the rookie wall, or, something. The Cavs have league’s 25th best offensive rating which is actually kind of nice if you look at it in the context of their league-worst defensive rating (by 2.9 points per 100 possessions). Most nights the defense is the biggest problem on the court. It might be different for the Cavs on Tuesday night.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction:
I wouldn’t put any money on it, but the Cavs have to break through sometime. Maybe it’s just to keep a game close late into the game. But I’ll call a Cavs win. Why not? Cavs 98, Pacers 95.