The Cleveland Cavaliers are back at it on Thursday with a 6:00 pm ET matchup with the Miami Heat. I’m assuming the early start has something to do with the area football team playing at home on the same night, as I can’t imagine the traffic would be fun for the city to deal with as 100 some thousand people make their way downtown. For a lot of folks, the Cavs will provide a nice appetizer to the full meal of the Browns-Steelers rivalry, but the team itself has another opportunity to grow and improve.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (4-6) vs. Miami Heat (7-3)
When: 6:00 p.m. EST
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse — Cleveland, Ohio
Where to watch: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
The Miami Heat have impressed early on this season; for whatever Jimmy Butler brings in terms of stress, he remains a really good basketball player. The team has dealt with injuries and drama as Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow and Butler himself have missed time for various reasons. Despite inconsistency in terms of who has been available, Erik Spoelstra continues to impress whenever he’s given a half-decent roster with which to work. They haven’t scored particularly well but they are defending at an elite level. This could spell trouble for the Cavs who have gone for spells this season where the offense devolves into Collin Sexton and Tristan Thompson working too hard to create for themselves while the bench unit struggles. Alternatively, though, the Cavs have proven adept at creating good three point opportunities, and have controlled the boards for most of the season. Just as the matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers presented an interesting test, so too will the Miami Heat.
And let’s talk about that 76ers game. Obviously there’s a tanking discussion that we’ll have the whole season for, but it seemed like a game that had everything you’d want. The Cavs will be able to learn from what failed to work in the final five minutes of that game, and they’ll take confidence from knowing they competed the whole time. The Cavs are an athletic, if not particularly skilled team (outside of Kevin Love and perhaps Darius Garland). Perhaps that’s unfair, but they simply will have trouble creating offense individually and thus will need to trust John Beilein’s concepts. So far, so good, as even at 4-6 I’d say the coach’s approval rating would be in the high 90s.
I also saw some folks that were upset Sexton didn’t take the last shot. One, I think it’s important to realize he wasn’t having some incredible night. We was struggling to find efficiency, which is to be expected. The Cavs got Kevin Love, their best offensive player, a wide open look. I don’t know what the criticism of that would be. It’s still a learning experience for Sexton (and the whole team) in that it’s a crunchtime situation that resulted in a relatively high-percentage shot when they needed it most. Resorting to hero ball from a player that isn’t an elite creator would have been a worse outcome. I understand why moral victories are lame for some, but I’ll take competitive signs of growth. Hopefully that continues against Miami.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
I think we see, perhaps, a game like the loss to the Celtics. It’s not the worst time for the team to be humbled in some small way. But hey, I’d take a win too. Miami 109, Cleveland 91.