Well, I guess there really is no rest for the weary.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (10-19) will continue the Western Conference gauntlet with an impromptu matchup against the Denver Nuggets (15-13) at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday night. Both teams are coming off losses, though, not all losses are equal.
Denver is fresh off a barnburner against the Washington Wizards where they surrendered 130 points. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray combined for 68 points, but it was not enough. The Nuggets are playing uneven basketball after making the Western Conference Finals last season but are still potent offensively and have some defensive deficiencies.
That mixes in well for the Cavaliers, who could use a soft defense to try and get things going on offense. Cleveland has lost eight in a row, losing by double digits in seven of those contests and failing to score 100 points in four of them. Kevin Love is close to returning and would definitely help stop the bleeding on offense, but he remains out with the calf injury. Andre Drummond will also sit out as the Cavs determine his future, so we are deprived of seeing a Jokic-Drummond battle.
How to Watch:
Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. on Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go, and NBA League Pass
Darius Garland and Collin Sexton will continue to be the primary offensive weapons, and a shooting explosion would be a welcome surprise. On the eight-game slide, Sexton is shooting 45.5% from the floor including 33.3% from deep and is a -17.3 overall. Garland is not fairing any better, shooting 46.2% overall and 37.9% from three-point land. Oh, and he has +/- of -22.4 in the same eight game stretch. Needless to say, the backcourt needs to get back on track. Isaac Okoro, who has really been struggling of late, will also look to right the ship. Jarrett Allen will get another start for the sitting Drummond.
Things to Watch for:
Young Guards and The Big
With Drummond riding the pine, the young guards will get to play with the center of the future in Allen. The Nuggets are a below average team defensively, though Jokic is not a complete turnstile like in years past. Garland, Sexton, and Allen will have had some rest and practice together, so hopefully that can translate into some offensive opportunities against a defense that just got exposed by the nine-win Wizards.
Jokic and The Fro
Nikola Jokic is right up there with Joel Embiid for best big man in the league and is having an MVP-caliber season. The 25-year-old is averaging 27.4 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game for the Nuggets and he will very likely add to those stats against a Cavs team that is struggling defensively. Jokic will not be matched up against Andre Drummond like he was on Feb. 10. Instead, he will get Allen, who is a better defender and just does better “center things”. While Denver has myriad of offensive options, Jokic and Allen will be a matchup to watch.