Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Denver Nuggets: game preview and how to watch
The Cavaliers will look to sweep the season series for the second time in three years.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (39-30) are 4-7 since the All-Star break and will look to defend home court with the Denver Nuggets (42-28), featuring the reigning NBA MVP, Nikola Jokić, coming to town. Entering Friday’s slate of games, the Cavs are tied with the Toronto Raptors for sixth-place in the Eastern Conference standings and games are becoming increasingly must-win with roughly three weeks of games remaining in the regular season.
Cavs vs. Nuggets on a Friday night, let’s get it.
HOW TO WATCH
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (39-30) vs. Denver Nuggets (42-28)
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse - Cleveland, Ohio
When: 7:30 pm
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports App, NBA League Pass
Spread: Nuggets (-2.5)
Opposing blog: Denver Stiffs
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Lamar Stevens / Lauri Markkanen / Evan Mobley
Cavs injury report: Rajon Rondo (OUT - ankle), Jarrett Allen (OUT - finger), Dean Wade (OUT - knee), Collin Sexton (OUT - knee)
Expected Nuggets starting lineup: Will Barton / Monte Morris / Jeff Green / Aaron Gordon / Nikola Jokić
Nuggets injury report: Vlatko Cancar (OUT - foot), Jamal Murray (OUT - knee), Michael Porter Jr (OUT - back), Zeke Nnaji (OUT - knee)
THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
DEFENSE: Immediately, the Cavaliers defense comes to mind as a problem that could haunt them during this Nuggets matchup. Post-All-Star break, the Cavs are allowing 9.3 more points per games than they were before the All-Star break.
This may not seem like a lot, but the Cavs were one of the best defensive teams during the first couple months of the season. Now? They are being outscored by their opponents by nearly 10 points, all while scoring only two points more than they did before the break (108.6 to 106.7). Meanwhile, the Nuggets enter Friday’s game scoring the 11th-most points per game (111.4) and hold the league’s seventh-best offensive rating (113.5).
OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY WITH JOKIĆ RESTING: Even though Michael Porter Jr and Jamal Murray have missed most or all of the season due to injuries, Jokić still has the Nuggets in decent shape, sitting sixth-place in the Western Conference and, most importantly, not in play-in tournament position. With Jokić resting, the Cavaliers need to take advantage of the Nuggets’ decreased scoring and playmaking. When Jokić is on the floor, the Nuggets’ efficiency differential increases by 19.1 points, the highest of Jokić’s career. Likewise, Denver scores an extra 11.9 points per 100 possessions, also the highest of Jokić’s career and both rank in the 99th percentile of all centers in the NBA, according to Cleaning the Glass. Key plays from Isaac Okoro (18.5 points per gme in last two games), Caris LeVert (15 points, +5 plus/minus vs. the 76ers and Lauri Markkanen (17 points vs. the Clippers) will be needed to offset an offense that is one of the league’s best.
PERFORMANCE OF EVAN MOBLEY: Mobley will have his hands full making his sixth consecutive start at center since Jarrett Allen went down with a fractured finger. In his only game against the Nuggets this season, Mobley was held to a pedestrian 10 points while grabbing eight rebounds. Although Jokić will be his primary defender, there is some upside with his recent play. Mobley has averages of 20.2 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game while shooting 56.2% from the field. According to Cleaning the Glass, when Mobley plays the center position, his usage sees a slight increase to 21.4%. In turn, his points per shot attempt also sees a slight increase while his assist percentage rises nearly 5% and his turnover percentage improves. No, he’s not quite the playmaker like Darius Garland, but Mobley has concrete evidence of helping his team. The question is: how much will Jokić do to affect it?