Coming off a nailbiter against the Indiana Pacers, the Cavs (38-27) look to climb back up the Eastern Conference standings and are only 1.0 games back of the Boston Celtics for fifth place and 1.5 games behind the Chicago Bulls for fourth place. The Heat (44-23), meanwhile, are the best team record-wise in the Eastern Conference and are looking to maintain distance from the Milwaukee Bucks. Last time out Miami hosted the Phoenix Suns and lost 111-90.
HOW TO WATCH
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (38-27) vs. Miami Heat (44-23)
Where: FTX Arena - Miami, Florida
When: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports App, NBA League Pass
Spread: Heat -5.5
Opposing blog: Hot Hot Hoops
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Dean Wade / Lauri Markkanen / Evan Mobley
Cavs injury report: Jarrett Allen (OUT - finger), Caris LeVert (OUT - foot), Collin Sexton (OUT - knee), Dylan Windler (OUT - G League assignment)
Expected Heat starting lineup: Kyle Lowry / Gabe Vincent / Duncan Robinson / P.J. Tucker / Bam Adebayo
Heat injury report: Jimmy Butler (QUESTIONABLE - sinus congestion), Kyle Guy (OUT - G League assignment), Caleb Martin (QUESTIONABLE - knee), Markieff Morris (OUT - return to conditioning), Javonte Smart (OUT - G League assignment)
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
JIMMY BUTLER’S AVAILABILITY: In the first two contests against the Heat, the Cavs did not see Jimmy Butler in action. That was a key deciding factor, along with the lack of Bam Adebayo (more on that below), in Cleveland picking up two wins over Miami already this season. If Butler is available to play, it could create a new dimension on defense for the Heat and plenty of headaches for the Cavs on offense. Butler would likely spend the evening defending Darius Garland and try to grind Cleveland's only true offensive initiation to a halt. To prevent this, look for Garland and the Cavs to run a pick-and-roll heavy offense to try and disrupt Butler’s defensive presence.
EVAN MOBLEY’S NEXT TEST: As it was mentioned above, like Butler, Cleveland has also not faced superstar big man Bam Adebayo this season as well. Adebayo would be locked in on Cavs rookie Evan Mobley, who is having a bit of a late-season surge offensively with Jarrett Allen sidelined for the foreseeable future. No disrespect to the likes of Indiana’s Isaiah Jackson or Toronto’s overabundance of bigs but Adebayo will be one of the biggest tests Mobley faces on offense up to this point in the season. Look for Cleveland to find ways to relieve some of the pressure Adebayo gives Mobley as well as getting the rookie more involved in playmaking.
THE SIXTH MAN SHOWDOWN: According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation, Miami shooting guard Tyler Herro is the overwhelming favorite at -10000 to win Sixth Man of the Year heading into Friday’s contest. Cavs big man Kevin Love, meanwhile, is tied for the second-best odds at +4000 to win the award. Both players are more than deserving and are integral to what their respective teams have accomplished this season. But, this game could play a role in who ends up going home with the hardware at the end of the season.