The Cleveland Cavaliers (5-6) will look to put together a winning streak against the visiting Detroit Pistons (2-10) in each team’s second game of the NBA’s In-Season Tournament. Cleveland is fresh off a win against the Portland Trail Blazers, while Detroit most recently fell to the visiting Atlanta Hawks in another In-Season Tournament group play game.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse - Cleveland, Ohio
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports Detroit
Spread: CLE -8.5
Opposing Team Blog: Detroit Bad Boys
Expected Cavs Starting Lineup:
Donovan Mitchell, Max Strus, Dean Wade, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
Cavs Injury Report: Donovan Mitchell (hamstring, QUESTIONABLE), Darius Garland (neck, QUESTIONABLE), Ricky Rubio (Personal, OUT), Ty Jerome (ankle, OUT), Isaac Okoro (knee, OUT), Isaiah Mobley (G League, OUT)
Expected Pistons Starting Lineup:
Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Ausar Thompson, Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley III
Pistons Injury Report: Jalen Duren (ankle, OUT), Monte Morris (quad, OUT), Joe Harris (shoulder, OUT), Bojan Bogdanovic (calf strain, OUT), Isaiah Livers (ankle, OUT), Marvin Bagley III (illness, QUESTIONABLE), Malcolm Cazalon (G League, OUT), Jared Rhoden (G League, OUT)
What to watch for
Avoiding Slop O’Clock
Much like last year, the Cavs tend to sleepwalk their way through games against inferior competition. Even in their last game against the heavily depleted Portland Trail Blazers, the Cavs let their foot off the gas after sprinting to a 12-2 lead. That resulted in a rather un-inspiring eight-point lead at the half that felt smaller than it was. Multiple missed rotations, poor offensive possessions, and an over-reliance on Donovan Mitchell were overshadowed by the final score in the Cavs’ favor. The reality is that Cleveland has some things they need to clean up, and quickly.
The Cavs had 17 turnovers against the Blazers, just one off their season high of 18 - which they have hit three times already this season. There was a four-game stretch where the Cavs’ turnover rate was in the 19th percentile or worse per Cleaning the Glass. Darius Garland, who missed the game against Portland due to a neck injury, has a career-worst turnover percentage (21.7%) per Cleaning the Glass. Not having a quality backup point guard available does not help the situation either, putting even more of the onus on Mitchell and LeVert. Those two are the only consistent scorers and having them also act as playmakers seems untenable in the long run, especially against good teams.
Having a healthy Garland will certainly help the situation, but he also needs to be smarter with the basketball. Some of his turnovers have been the result of good defensive length, like against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Others have been generally careless or trying to do too much. While the Pistons have the worst record in the league, they do have tall starting guards in Cunningham and Hayes similar to the Thunder. Ausar Thompson is arguably the team’s best defender, bringing a blend of length and athleticism that could give the Cavs small backcourt fits. But Detroit’s 22nd-ranked defense has plenty of holes that Cleveland should look to exploit. The Cavs have to turn a corner soon, especially considering their schedule starts to tighten up after this game.
One stat to watch
Despite emphasizing three-point shooting in the offseason, the Cavs have been a bottom-five team in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage. Their 33.6% is 26th in the NBA while they average 11.6 three-point attempts per game, 20th in the NBA. Detroit allows the second-fewest three-point attempts per game in the NBA, though they are 20th in opponent three-point field goal percentage per Cleaning the Glass. While the Cavs may not need to go nuclear from deep to win this game, it would certainly be encouraging to see them start to wake up from their slumber against a team like Detroit.
Max Strus has been as advertised and more for the Cavs, a 35% three-point shooter who can be a connector on the offense while being a capable defender. To demonstrate just how good Strus has been, Cleveland is 54.4 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court than off. Fifty-four! That is, unsurprisingly, the best in the NBA. The same cannot be said for Georges Niang, who is shooting a frustrating 28% from deep - down from the 40% get shot last season with the Philadelphia 76ers. In terms of three-point accuracy, Garland is shooting 29% and Dean Wade is at 31%, both not good enough and due for some positive regression. Getting the three-point shooting back to where it needs to be is vital, and the Cavs, assuming good health, should be in a good place to do that at home against Detroit.