The Cavaliers (17-32) continue their road trip tonight against the San Antonio Spurs (24-23) looking to snap a five-game losing streak. The two teams last faced on March 19, with the Spurs pulling out a 116-110 victory in Cleveland. San Antonio is looking to get back on the winning track too, losing their last two games in overtime. Both teams have lost seven of their last ten.
Cleveland may be without two of their big men in Jarett Allen (concussion) and Larry Nance Jr. (illness), meaning Kevin Love will likely start at center again. Newcomer Isaiah Hartenstein will get more run at center as well, though he has shown some capabilities as a backup big. Not having Allen and Nance will once again deprive the Cavaliers of two of their best defenders, the latter being an important playmaker too. Dylan Windler has missed the last few games with knee pain as well. The Spurs will be without Lonnie Walker IV (wrist) and Trey Lyles (ankle), while new center Gorgui Dieng is a game-time decision with a shoulder ailment.
If Nance, Allen, and/or Windler are unable to play, look for Dean Wade to start at power forward next to Love. Wade was cold from the floor in Saturday’s loss to the Miami Heat, going 1-8 overall and 1-6 from behind the arc. Both Wade and Love spacing opposing defenses out would be fun to watch if it works, so hopefully we get to see it in action.
Darius Garland and Collin Sexton both had trouble with the Heat’s zone defense (and actual good defenders), but San Antonio should not be as punishing. Sexton had 26 points against Miami on an efficient 11-17 shooting, while Garland dished eight assists. DeJounte Murray and Derrick White, both 6’4”, could give the smaller guards some problems. Having Kevin Love back helps immensely, too, as he can do some playmaking and work out of the elbow to help facilitate some offense and keep things moving.
Things to Watch for:
Junior and the ‘Fro
With no Larry Nance or Jarrett Allen, Jakob Poetl, who has been playing very well since the Spurs were clobbered by Philadelphia, will likely be quite impactful. Love will likely be on a minutes restriction still and Hartenstein is a backup big for a reason, so the Cavs will likely have a big disadvantage in the frontcourt. Love at center is already not very optimal from a defensive standpoint and, if the Cavs are not hitting offensively, it could be a long night.
Once again, the Cavs will be relying on Collin Sexton to keep them in the game offensively. The third-year guard is a volume shooter and a microwave – he can get hot quickly. Darius Garland blossoming this season as a playmaker coupled with Love’s return provides more playmaking punch. But getting Sexton running around and keeping the Spurs on their heels will pay dividends.
Look at the Rook
Isaac Okoro received praise from Jimmy Butler after the Cavs losing effort in South Beach, and that should give Cavs fans some hope in an otherwise lost season. Okoro on any given night can clamp down on the opposing team’s best offensive player and make a smart cut for a dunk just a few plays later. He is a great fit next to Sexton and Garland from a defensive standpoint, but the offensive side needs more consistency.
Isaac Okoro, sheesh. pic.twitter.com/KjjAlillgE— Chris Manning (@cwmwrites) April 4, 2021
Butler is a wishful thinking comparison for Okoro, a defensive-minded wing who makes smart offensive plays. But pay a little extra attention to Okoro moving forward – he is a foundational piece for the next Cavaliers playoff team and is a really fun player.