The Cleveland Cavaliers will look to keep the good vibes rolling as they welcome another Western Conference opponent to Northeast Ohio.
Where: Cleveland, Ohio - Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+, NBA League Pass
Spread (via DraftKings): Cavs -6
Opposing blog: Sactown Royalty
Cavs expected starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Lamar Stevens / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs’ injury report: Donovan Mitchell (QUESTIONABLE - right leg), Kevin Love (OUT - lower back soreness), Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL recovery), Dean Wade (OUT - shoulder sprain), Dylan Windler (OUT - ankle sprain)
Kings expected starting lineup: De’Aaron Fox / Kevin Huerter / Harrison Barnes / Keegan Murray / Domantas Sabonis
Kings injury report: De’Aaron Fox (QUESTIONABLE - back), Terrence Davis (QUESTIONABLE - back), Chima Moneke (OUT - G League assignment), Neemias Queta (OUT - G League assignment)
What to watch for
Mike Brown’s turnaround. Donovan Mitchell had his homecoming in New York on Sunday. LeBron James had his on Tuesday. Now its time for Mike Brown and Matthew Dellavedova to experience their heroes’ welcome back in Cleveland.
Brown’s homecoming will be slightly more muted than the other two, but he does deserve credit for the culture he’s developed in Sacramento. The Kings have a winning record, have the fifth best offense (116.7 offensive rating) and the ninth best net rating (2.7). That’s significant for a franchise that hasn’t had a positive net rating since the Bush administration.
There’s reason to be skeptical about how real this team is this year and in the long term. The defense is atrocious and it isn’t clear how they can take the next step forward with their current nucleus. But they might have found a culture setter to rally around in Mike Brown. That’s at least a step in the right direction.
Outside shooting. The Cavs’ outside shooting is continuing to regress to what we’d expect. Their 37.4% shooting from distance is now good for eighth in the league.
Cleveland has shot it 33% or worse in five of their last seven games which includes shooting 24.2% in their last two. They may not be the elite shooting team we saw through the first 15 or so games, but they are better than they’ve shown of late.
Darius Garland has had uncharacteristically drastic shooting splits between home and road this season. He’s hitting 48.6% of his threes at home compared to the 29.5% he’s making on the road. Maybe another strong home shooting night from Garland will help jumpstart the outside shooting.
The second units. The Kings’ bench outscored the Cavs’ bench 43-19 in their last meeting. Sacramento averages 41.9 bench points per game which is good for second in the league while the Cavs are 26th in bench scoring with 28.9 per game.
Kevin Love being out tonight doesn’t help the bench’s chances. We’ll see if Cedi Osman or Caris LeVert can spark the second unit and keep the Cavs’ second unit within arm’s reach of the Kings’.
Controlling the paint and transition opportunities. The Kings score the fourth most fastbreak points per game (16.2) while finishing 70.5% of their attempts at the rim which is good for second best in the league.
The Cavs have not done a good job of limiting transition opportunities this season as opponents are getting out in the open court in 16.5% of offensive possessions which is fifth most. The defense also hasn’t protected the rim as they did last season as teams are finishing 66.5% of their shots in the restricted area compared to 60.4% the previous season.
We’ll see if Cleveland can keep Sacramento in the half court and keep them away from the paint with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley roaming the backline.