Late-game execution was an issue for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season (road losses to the Spurs and Clippers come to mind), and last night had a similar feeling. The Cavs lost a ten-point lead late in the game, allowing the Oklahoma City Thunder to come back to tie - ultimately win. Cleveland will look to rectify their mistakes from last night and split the back-to-back homestand against the Indiana Pacers.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse - Cleveland, Ohio
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio,
Spread: IND -2.5
Indiana Pacers Blog:
Expected Cavs Starting Lineup:
Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Max Strus, Dean Wade, Evan Mobley
Cavs Injury Report: Darius Garland (hamstring, OUT), Jarrett Allen (ankle, OUT), Ricky Rubio (Personal, OUT), Ty Jerome (ankle, OUT), Donovan Mitchell (hamstring, QUESTIONABLE)
Expected Pacers Starting Lineup:
Tyrese Halibruton, Bruce Brown, Benedict Mathurin, Obi Toppin, Myles Turner
Pacers Injury Report: Tyrese Haliburton (illness, QUESTIONABLE), Kendall Brown (G League, QUESTIONABLE), Oscar Tshiebwe (G League, QUESTIONABLE), Isaiah Wong (G League, QUESTIONABLE)
What to watch for
The Pacers are a legitimately good team
Indiana has sort of been shoved into this “whatever” tier list of NBA teams since the duo of Victor Oladipo and Domontas Sabonis were separated, but the veil should be lifted. The Pacers are a good, deep basketball team with some exciting young players and savvy veterans. Tyrese Haliburton is an All-NBA type of guard who is as steady and well-rounded as they come with an excellent blend of playmaking and scoring. Benedict Mathurin was one of the most impressive rookies early on last season. They anchor a team with quality veterans in champion Bruce Brown and sharpshooter Buddy Hield, two players that any team should want on their roster.
It is hard to take anything from Indiana’s shellacking of the Washington Wizards, where they dropped 143 points on incredible efficiency, but there are some things the Cavs will have to look out for. Brown, Haliburton, Hield and Mathurin are quality three-point shooters. Myles Turner is not afraid to take threes and can bang around in the paint. Their guards are capable passers, especially Haliburton. There are some holes defensively, but the Pacers have Brown to throw on one of the Cavs’ guards now which should make things difficult for Cleveland. Last year, Indiana only really had Hield, Aaron Nesmith and Andrew Nembhard to guard Donovan Mitchell (he torched the Pacers, averaging 32 points per game against them). This time around may be different.
Two games into the season and there is already some concern being drawn from Cavs’ fans about Evan Mobley’s offensive game. Mobley, who has been pushed to center while Jarrett Allen sits out due to an ankle injury, is averaging 12 points and two assists per game on 43.5% shooting. His effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage are both career lows and he does not appear to have made any significant headway in developing his offensive skillset.
Bear in mind that the Cavs are only two games into the season, and Mobley is playing the position he’ll play most of his minutes at. The issue is he has, so far, not shown the ability to aggressively find his shot. His work in the post has not been exceptionally better than last year, settling for a lot of turnaround fadeaways, particularly in the opener against the Brooklyn Nets. He had opportunities to take shots from the elbow but just didn't. The whole “dynamic” offense talked about in the preseason, where Mobley operates as a hub at the elbow, was only gone to once last night. On nights when Darius Garland is out and the offense needs more structure, it would be prudent for the Cavs to go back to this more often.
One stat to watch
If the Cavs hit just two more of their threes in the first half of yesterday’s game, the narrative surrounding the team is likely very different. Instead, the Cavs shot 3-22 from deep in the first half before going 9-23 in the second half. Meanwhile, the Thunder shot a blistering 50% from beyond the arc. The variance of a heavy three-point shooting team is what it is. Sometimes the shots don’t fall, sometimes it's a Cavalanche.
Max Strus, Donovan Mitchell and Georges Niang were a combined 6-27 from deep, something that is really difficult to overcome when the offense is already without Darius Garland. Niang actually has yet to officially make a three-pointer as a Cavalier, which will have to change quickly if the Cavs are to weather their injury issues.