The Cleveland Cavaliers are back in town as they launch into a three-game home stretch tonight against the LA Clippers. The visiting club is one of the oldest in the NBA, but they’ve been on fire lately, winning their last five in a row. It’s not a coincidence that the team’s winning streak is directly tied to veteran talents Kawai Leonard and Paul George finally sharing the floor. Kawai and George are demonstrating that they have plenty of gas left in the tank, and it’s up to Cleveland to do what they do best – defend home court.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (30-21) vs. LA Clippers (28-24)
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse
When: 7 pm EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, NBC Sports Bay Area
Spread: Cavs -5.5
Opposing Blog: Clips Nation
Cavs’ expected starting lineup: Darius Garland, Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
Cavs’ injury report: Donovan Mitchell (QUESTIONABLE, groin), Kevin Love (QUESTIONABLE back), Dylan Windler (OUT, ankle)
Clippers’ expected starting lineup: Paul George, Terance Mann, Kawhi Leonard, Luke Kennard, Ivica Zubac
Clippers’ injury report: John Wall (OUT-abdominal strain), Marcus Morris Sr (OUT-rib), Robert Covington (OUT-personal).
What to Watch For
The return of Kawhi and George The Clippers prevailed in the first matchup between these two clubs back in November with a final score of 119-117. The Clippers’ victory was largely due to Paul George’s 26 points, who seems to always cook the Cavs. Clippers’ star enigma, Kawhi Leonard is back hitting his groove as of late, averaging 26.5 points and 6.3 rebounds over his previous 10 games.
After defeating the Atlanta Hawks 120-113 on Saturday night behind Leonard’s 32 points (including a season-high five 3-pointers) and Paul George’s 23, the Clippers arrive in Cleveland tonight for the second night of a back-to-back. Tonight, Isaac Okoro has a chance to shine on defense as he will likely take on the lead assignment of containing Leonard.
Letting Donny Rest With career highs in field goal (48.1%), three-point (39.6%), and free throw (86.9%) percentages, Mitchell has been outstanding in his debut season with the Cavaliers, averaging 28.3 points per game, good for 10th in the NBA. Mitchell, it would appear, really wants to win. So much so the starting All-Star, who is also averaging career highs in minutes (36.2), is playing through a nagging groin injury.
Darius Garland, as the team’s most important facilitator, should take the lead as we approach the midpoint of the season. Garland, who is ninth among point guards with a 34.2% assist rate, can create space for three-point shooters Cedi Osman, Dean Wade and Caris LeVert. With Garland’s efficient and poised ball control down the stretch, the Cavaliers have a chance to pull off another home victory.
Guarding the Perimeter Ranked 7th in the league, the Clips average 38.2% from the perimeter. The Cavs, who have a pronounced issue defending the long ball, are allowing teams to shoot 39.9% from beyond the arc over their last 10 games. Toss in a hot Leonard, who is finding his rhythm from three, and the home team could be set up for a premier Sunday slogging. If the Cavs want to rid themself of the increasing whispers that they are just another play-in team, their defense needs to arrive and it needs to arrive quickly.