Who: Charlotte Hornets (4-12) at Cleveland Cavaliers (8-6)
Where: Cleveland, Ohio - Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+, NBA League Pass
Opposing blog: At the Hive
Cavs’ expected starting lineup: Darius Garland / Donovan Mitchell / Caris LeVert / Lamar Stevens / Evan Mobley
Cavs’ injury report: Jarrett Allen (GAME TIME DECISION - left ankle), Dean Wade (QUESTIONABLE - left knee), Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL), Dylan Windler (OUT - right ankle)
Hornets’ expected starting lineup: Dennis Smith Jr / Terry Rozier / Kelly Oubre Jr / P.J. Washington / Mason Plumlee
Hornets’ injury report: LaMelo Ball (OUT - ankle), Mark Williams (OUT - ankle), Cody Martin (OUT - knee), Gordon Heyward (OUT - shoulder)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Defense, Defense, Defense
It cannot be stressed enough how important defense plays a part in the Cavaliers’ success, and as their defense has subsided recently, so have the wins. The Hornets will already be without their star point guard, LaMelo Ball, due to an ankle injury so the Cavaliers should use this break to step up their defense. During the team’s five-game losing streak, Cavaliers’ opponents are scoring 118.8 PPG and have shooting splits of 45% on perimeter shots and 52% from the field overall. To make matters worse, the Cavaliers are dead last in the league in both defensive rating (122.0) and net rating (-7.7) since November 7, the night a loss against the Los Angeles Clippers began the team’s current losing streak. Look for the Cavaliers to get back on track against the Hornets who have an offensive rating of 106.8, which ranks as the league’s third-worst in the statistic.
Any time Jarrett Allen is missing from action, rebounding and defense can suffer a slight, but understandable dip. But, this is when the rest of the team needs to step up. Currently, the Cavaliers sit atop the league in defensive rebounding percentage at 75.8%. This is important because the Hornets have the Eastern Conference’s sixth-best Pace Factor at 100.11. While a team’s pace does not always equal wins, Charlotte is the East’s third-best team in second-chance points, averaging 16.8 second-chance points per game and they lead the NBA with 1,636 possessions. The Hornets will already be without their best player, so they will look to capitalize on any extra chances to get buckets. Limiting Rozier, the Hornets’ leading scorer with 20.8 PPG and 5.4 APG, will be key to preventing any extended run he may provide them. The Cavaliers rank in the bottom five in the East in rebounding at home, averaging 32.4 per game.
Despite being in the midst of a losing streak, only one of those losses has come at home. Since the Cavaliers’ November 2 win against the Boston Celtics, they have had only one home game, meaning getting back to the team’s comfort zone could be a step in the right direction in ending a longer-than-expected losing streak. Despite their struggles in rebounding, the Cavaliers are the NBA’s best team in allowing second-chance points at home with only 9.6 second-chance points per game while limiting their opponents to 15.2 points off turnovers. The team is also 4th in the East in home scoring, averaging 115.8 PPG, which is a slight dip from their 116.1 PPG on the road. The difference is the team shoots 39.2% from deep, almost 11% higher than when on the road, and a defensive rating of 108.7, the fourth-best mark in the East.