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Cleveland Cavaliers at Phoenix Suns: game preview and how to watch

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Struggling Cavs pack up Identity Disorder and head out West.

AP

I am lucky to have interesting friends who often share interesting words. This weekend, while bemoaning the aging process, I learned of the word entropy. After some rather modest research, I found that entropy — somewhat of a complicated thermodynamic process — can be best described as a measure of disorder and unpredictability. Perhaps this is why my IG feed is consistently littered with sponsored ads promoting wrinkle creams, workout vids and neurotoxins — the platform thrives on my disorder.

Entropy is a fascinating concept, and similar to how it applies within the context of physics, I believe (stay with me here) that it also applies to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Defense is hesitant. Offense is clunky, ad-libbed and unpredictable. The system — in disarray — appears to be in a rapid free-fall.

Perhaps this idea is a bit too far-fetched, but you don’t need a degree in physics to know that it takes consistent energy and structure to keep things hot. And the Cavs, well—they’re freezing. And no, it’s not because they are running into elite teams. It’s because their grit and grind, never-die identity has faded.

Can the Cavs (10-14) find themselves tonight as they face the Phoenix Suns (13-9) in the first of their 5-game tour out West? Can they resume order? I guess we’ll have to stay up late to see. Cleveland comes into tonight’s matchup on a bad stretch having lost five of their last six contests and now will have to go without starting forward Larry Nance Jr., who will miss 6 weeks with a fractured finger.

How to watch:
Tipoff is at 9 p.m. on Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go and NBA League Pass.

Projected starters:
Garland, Sexton and Okoro combined for a depressing MINUS 64 on 3 of 14 from three against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. Uhhhmmmm, ouch! And say what you will about Andre Drummond, but he continues to bring the most consistent stat line to the team. Chris Paul and Devin Booker are elite playmakers running in a system that boasts one of the best defenses in the league. The Cavs will have to outpace the Suns, within a structured approach, and finish the game with energy if they have any chance at winning tonight.

Cavs: Darius Garland/Collin Sexton/Isaac Okoro/Taurean Prince/Andre Drummond
Suns: Chris Paul/Devin Booker/Mikal Bridges/Frank Kaminsky/Deandre Ayton

Things to watch for:

The Ball has Energy:
“For progress to be made, everything needs to be arranged and managed in a certain way; we have to input a lot of energy to keep things in an ordered state.” [FARNAM STREET]

The Cavs need to work the ball tonight, and it all starts with Darius Garland. Phoenix plays top-tier defense and the Cavs can no longer rely on hesitation jumpers and the predictable and uninspired feeding of Drummond in the middle. The Cavs must be creative and confident on the offensive end of the floor, move the ball and run thoughtful plays. Garland has all the makings of a star point guard, but Coach Bickerstaff has to help him better understand how to get his whole team involved.

Third Quarter Woes
On Saturday, the Milwaukee Bucks outscored the Cavs 35-23 in the third quarter. That’s about where all vivid dreams of winning died. To produce a win out West, Cleveland must come out of halftime with a game plan and solid execution. For this team, that all starts on the defensive end of the floor.

Forward Thinking
Aside from Taurean Prince, the Cavs are struggling mightily at the Forward position. The Cavs received crushing news on Sunday morning when they learned that Larry Nance Jr. will miss 6 weeks with a fractured finger and perhaps undergo surgery. According to Cavs Notes, the Cavs have registered 10+ steals on 11 occasions this season, already passing their entire total in 2019-20 (7). Much of that was a result of Nance, who began the season leading the league in steals. Prince will likely get the start tonight. As far as rotations go, Lamar Stevens has shown flashes of success, so here’s hoping he can enter back into the flow and produce tonight. Cavs could use Stevens’ hard-nose on the defensive end, and Bickerstaff should be prepared to leash Cedi (and insert Allen or Windler) if he starts to run wild.