The Cleveland Cavaliers will face the Milwaukee Bucks in the first of a back-to-back at home on Friday night. This will be another opportunity for the young core to see how they measure up to one of the elite teams in the NBA after being trounced by the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday.
How to watch:
Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go and NBA League Pass
With his back feeling better, Andre Drummond returned to Cleveland’s starting lineup on Wednesday against Los Angeles. Drummond was lackluster, posting 13 points on 30.8% shooting to go with boards. He also had every fan demanding he is traded immediately as the Cavs looked like they had a spark on the floor whenever Drummond sat and Jarrett Allen played. As nice as that sounds, it isn’t going to happen right now. Drummond makes too much money ($28.7 million) to be a bench player for Cleveland and he was a key figure in the team’s hot start prior to Allen’s arrival. So, for now, look for Drummond to remain as Cleveland’s starting center. Only 48 more days until the trade deadline.
Larry Nance Jr., meanwhile, was out on Wednesday against the Clippers with the wrist injury he suffered when the Cavs took on the Celtics. Nance has been sidelined for Cleveland’s last two games against Minnesota and Los Angeles so we’ll see if he gives it a go against Milwaukee. With the Cavs usually erring on the side of caution with player injuries, as they should, there’s a good chance Nance doesn’t suit up against the Bucks. If that were the case expect Taurean Prince to draw the start in his stead.
Collin Sexton (neck) is questionable for this game. We’ll have an idea of his availability closer to game time. If Sexton cannot go expect Damyean Dotson to draw the start.
Cavs: Darius Garland/Collin Sexton/Isaac Okoro/Taurean Prince/Andre Drummond
Bucks: Jrue Holiday/Donte DiVincenzo/Khris Middleton/Giannis Antetokounmpo/Brook Lopez
Things to watch for:
- How the Cavs will take on HAM: Milwaukee’s trifecta of Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Khris Middleton, also known as HAM, are a nightmare for opponents on both ends of the floor any given game. All three parts of HAM are Milwaukee’s three leading scorers and combine for 63.9 points per game. That’s 52.8% of the 121.0 the Bucks as an entity score on a nightly basis. All three players in HAM play at positions where Cleveland is weak defensively - especially if Nance remains sidelined with his wrist injury. It’s going to be a long night for rookie forward Isaac Okoro. Look for Lamar Stevens, Dylan Windler, and Damyean Dotson to try and help to slow HAM down. If not, the Cavs will look like a bunch of baloney.
- Looking in the mirror: Heading into Friday, the Cavs rank dead last in defending the perimeter. The Bucks, meanwhile, rank twenty-fifth in the league. Cleveland tries to copy a lot of Milwaukee’s drop coverage strategies, daring teams to shoot it from beyond the arc. The problem is, the Bucks are ranked third in three-point scoring while the Cavs rank twentieth overall. It could be Death By a Thousand Three’s again for Cleveland against Milwaukee. But, it also gives opportunities for the Cavs to get Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, and even Dylan Windler going from beyond the arc - something Bickerstaff said the team needs to do more of.
- A major test of strength: Did you ever play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? If not, go do that since it’s literally one of the greatest games ever made. If you have, you’ll know that the shrines that feature the major test of strength trials are some of the most difficult in the game - especially the Saas Ko’sah Shrine in Hyrule Castle. The Cavs have entered their own major test of strength with this nine-game slate that includes this back-to-back against the Bucks. The good time started early when Cleveland came out of the gates hot. Now, how will they respond to true adversity as they face some of the best the NBA has to offer?