The Cleveland Cavaliers look to keep their modest win streak going as they take on the Sacramento Kings. The Kings aren’t a good team, but they are playing better since finally firing Luke Walton. They’re 5-4 during their dead coach drop and have won three of their last four contests.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (15-12) vs. Sacramento Kings (11-15)
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse — Cleveland, Ohio
When: 8 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass, Bally Sports App
Spread: Cavs - 6
Opposing blog: Sactown Royalty
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Lauri Markkanen / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs injury report: Collin Sexton (OUT - meniscus), Dylan Windler (OUT - G League assignment), RJ Nembhard Jr. (OUT - 2 way)
Expected Kings starting lineup: De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Terence Davis, Harrison Barnes, Alex Len
Kings injury report: Richaun Holmes (OUT - right eye injury), Jahmi’us Ramsey (OUT - G League assignment), Robert Woodard II (OUT - G League assignment)
Three things to watch
Tristan Thompson’s homecoming. It’s special anytime a member of the 2016 championship team returns to Cleveland. Sadly this is becoming a rarer occurrence as there are only three members of that team currently active in the NBA and two of those players only come to Cleveland once a season.
I could go on for hours about how the Cavs don’t win in 2016 without Tristan’s ability to neutralize the “Death Lineup.” His ability to outrebound a smaller team and defend in space on the perimeter were the exact skills needed to beat that team. It’s no wonder Thompson finished with a series-best 9.3 net rating (for players who played every game) during the 2016 Finals.
Thompson had arguably his best game as a Cavalier in the most important basketball game ever played in Cleveland. He dominated Game 6 of the Finals as he finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds while being a game-high +32.
I always thought that Thompson would be the torch bearer from that generation of Cavs basketball to this. Somehow, that duty was passed to Kevin Love.
The Cavs front court advantage. While we will always love Tristan, the Mobley and Allen front court should have their way tonight. The Kings don’t have the front court depth with Holmes out of the lineup to keep up with Cleveland.
The Kings play small with Harrison Barnes (another 2016 Finals legend) starting at the four. Alex Len is expected to start at center tonight which does give them some size, but he is by no means a good defensive center due to his lack of quickness. Marvin Bagley III and Thompson are probably a better matchup against the Cavs but neither are rim protectors.
The Kings ill-fitting frontcourt is part of the reasons they are one of the worst defenses in the league. They are 27th in defensive rating (112.3), 29th in defensive rebounding (68.9%), they allow the most second-chance points (16.2) and they allow the most points in the paint in the league (52.2).
We’ll see if the Cavs can take advantage of a depleted and not very good front court tonight.
This could be a sloppy game. This will be the Cavs' fifth game in seven nights with no consecutive game in the same city. On top of that, this will be the second night of a back-to-back. The Kings will also be playing their second night of a back-to-back and are coming off of a heartbreaking loss against the Charlotte Hornets. This has all the makings of a game that could turn ugly.