The scheduling for the Cavs this year has been strange — they seem to be playing the same teams over and over, and while until this week they’ve had a good amount of times between games, the strength of schedule has been a bit challenging.
A deficient roster that is now hurt must persevere, and it will be interesting to see how they respond in the coming weeks. Tristan Thompson will not play against the Heat, and Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. missed Monday’s game with the New York Knicks. Love and Nance is listed as probable, while Nance is starting Thompson’s spot.
The situation reminds me a bit (in a morbid sense) of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015. That Cavs team put together great lineups whenever Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson shared the court, but the team did not have a capable third big (Anderson Varejao’s on/off metrics were abysmal - he was sadly just past his prime). Enter Timofey Mozgov, and all of a sudden the team had three bigs they could reliably give serious minutes to. The team took off.
This Cavs team is obviously not that good, but with Love, Thompson, and Nance have three pretty good NBA bigs. When one goes down, it’s a problem. When two go down ... well the roster just doesn’t have an answer for that, especially with John Henson also hurt. So anyway, these games are challenging before you even tip off. Playing Cedi Osman at the four isn’t a good idea, and we somehow have been able to collect lots of evidence of that over the last year.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (4-9) vs. Miami Heat (9-3)
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: American Airlines Arena — Miami, Florida
Where on my eyeballs: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
The Heat keep rolling on, establishing themselves as one of the East’s top teams. They’ve weathered the Dion Waiters storm and continue to play some of the best defense in the league. Justise Winslow will miss tonight’s game, but Jimmy Butler will not and that’s trouble for Cleveland. Bam Adebayo continues to impress as a do-everything modern center. He’s currently a handling a big jump in minutes and responsibility without giving up much of anything, and that’s something we’ve seen young bigs fail to do over the years (unfortunately, I’m wondering about Larry Nance Jr. falling into that category.
The Heat are just kind of a fun team with a star in Butler and up and coming players like Adebayo Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro. They have balanced scoring and are well-coached. I’m not sure what their upside is as of right now, but they’ll have flexibility to make moves if they want to win now (Pat Riley usually does). Either way, it’s the type of team that the Cavs are likely to struggle with right now.
Some things I’m looking for:
- Can Cedi Osman show some signs of life?
- Can Darius Garland play a bit more assertively?
- Can Collin Sexton find a bit more efficiency with his scoring, or start finding teammates on lobs, cuts, or spot-up three point opportunities?
I haven’t seen enough of those things, but tonight provides another chance.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction: Miami, 109. Cavs, 89. It’s going to get a bit worse before it gets better.