The Cleveland Cavaliers have played six games, and have just one lineup that has shared the court together for more than 19 minutes. That lineup, the starting unit of Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson, has played 85 minutes and has outscored opponents by over 15 points per 100 possessions.
The Cavs are also 2-4 and have been outscored by 6.1 points per 100 possessions on the season. Every other lineup: not great!
These sample sizes are tiny. I don’t expect the starters to continue to play at that level, though it’s probably worth noting that Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson are just good players. It’s worth giving Osman some credit for his defense on the wing. We’ll see if John Beilein can find other groups that work moving forward.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (2-4) vs. Boston Celtics (4-1)
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse — Cleveland, Ohio
Where to watch: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
While the Dallas Mavericks are a pretty good team, this game represents the first time since the Cavs first surprising wins of the season that they will be expected to lose, and perhaps lose handily. Since a season-opening loss, the Celtics have put together four straight wins and are getting better play from their free agent signing Kemba Walker. It’s fair to wonder if they’ll be doing a little scouting of Kevin Love, because the league is watered down enough in terms of talent and they might talk themselves into a title chance.
In a young season, the Celtics have been defending at a high level, rating eighth in the league in team defense, and 14th in team offense. Doesn’t sound elite, but being decent at both is good enough to give them the sixth best net rating in the league so far. With the Cavs missing Kevin Porter Jr. due to suspension, they’ll be extremely small on the wing. That hurts in terms of Jayson Tatum, and perhaps Gordon Hayward, but it’s one of the few teams in the league the Cavs don’t give up much size to in the backcourt. I’d be interested to see if the Cavs try to put Thompson on Tatum for different parts of the game.
Hopefully we see a step forward from Garland today, or one of the games where we want to see Sexton defending at a higher level. If the losses start piling up, the grind of the season starts to become apparent. Beilein’s been fun, motivated, energized. A couple early wins helped. Fair to wonder how he, or his players, sustain that without success sprinkled in. I don’t think we’re close, but tonight could be one of the first real setbacks.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Celtics depth and size on the wing is too much for Osman and Sexton. Tatum has too much fun. Celtics 111, Cavs 95.