The Cleveland Cavaliers, fresh off a smackdown of the Detroit Pistons sans Donovan Mitchell or Darius Garland, start the post-trade deadline portion of the season in New Orleans to face the Pelicans. This is a quick pitstop in Louisiana for the Cavaliers before two games at home. The Pelicans, who are winners of their last three games, have lost seven of their last ten overall.
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: 10 p.m. EST
TV: ESPN, Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports New Orleans
Spread: Cavs -2.5
Opposing Blog: The Bird Writes
Cavs’ expected starting lineup: Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
Cavs’ injury report: Rickey Rubio (OUT, knee injury management), Dylan Windler (OUT, ankle)
Pelicans’ expected starting lineup: C.J. McCollum, Herbert Jones, Trey Murphy, Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas
Pelicans’ injury report: Zion Williamson (OUT, Hamstring), E.J. Liddell (OFS, knee)
What to Watch For
Despite the record and star power, the Cavaliers have not necessarily been treated like a powerhouse team. This is only their third nationally-televised game on either ESPN or TNT, a far cry from some other teams. The Cavs will have to get used to this spotlight as they hurtle toward the playoffs. It is unfortunate that Zion Williamson is out, otherwise, it really would have a playoff atmosphere. The 10 p.m.start time is a little strange too.
It is no secret that the Cavs are dynamos at home and...less so on the road. Cleveland is 12-16 away from Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse and 4-7 in games decided by three points or less, which is around the current line for this game. The Pelicans are 20-9 at home, including their last three wins which all came at Smoothie King Center against the Lakers, Kings and Hawks. No slouches or pushover teams in that list, and winning them without Zion Williamson is impressive on top of that. The Cavs must not play down to their opponent, which they have done a few times this season.
Rotating the Rotation
After not making any moves ahead of the trade deadline, the Cavs are a mostly finished product barring any buyout market acquisitions. That means the rotations are pretty much set, right? Well, not so simple. J.B. Bickerstaff has gone around putting people in and out of the lineup all while managing injuries. But the playoffs are coming sooner rather than later, and it will soon be time to tighten the screws on the official eight-man rotation. But, until then, the Cavs will likely be playing around to see what fits together. Guys like Lamar Stevens, Kevin Love, and Caris LeVert have very specific skill sets and obvious detriments that more often than not outweigh the positives. It will be interesting to see how Bickerstaff gets guys time on the court to see what works and what does not. Isaac Okoro as a starter, though, looks awfully good of late. Let’s keep that train rolling.