Tonight should be a return to form for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have a prime opportunity to build momentum against a beat-up Detroit Pistons team.
The Pistons will be without five key players, Bojan Bogdanović, Cade Cunningham, Alec Burks, RJ Hampton and Jalen Duren. Meanwhile, Cleveland will be at full strength on their homecourt looking to bounce back from a loss to the Boston Celtics earlier in the week.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (39-26) versus Detroit Pistons (15-48)
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Cleveland, OH
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports Detroit
Spread: CLE -16
Opposing Blog: Detroit Bad Boys
Cavs’ expected starting lineup: Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley
Cavs’ injury report: Dylan Windler (OUT - G League assignment), Mamadi Diakite (OUT - G League two way), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - G League two way)
Pistons’ expected starting lineup: Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Isiah Livers, Marvin Bagley III, James Wiseman
Pistons’ injury report: Bojan Bogdanović (OUT - bilateral Achilles tendinopathy), Alec Burks (OUT - left foot soreness), Cade Cunningham (OUT - left tibia stress fracture) Jalen Duren (OUT - bilateral ankle soreness), RJ Hampton (PROBABLE - illness), Isaiah Livers (PROBABLE - left ankle sprain), Isaiah Stewart (OUT - right hip soreness)
What to watch for
Battle of the bigs
On most nights, the Cavaliers have the advantage of being one of the only teams in the NBA that plays two seven-footers together in the starting lineup. The Pistons will be one of the rare opponents who can match Cleveland’s size, with titans James Wiseman and Marvin Bagley making up the Detroit frontcourt.
Wiseman and Bagley have something in common — they are both reclamation projects for Detroit. The two former lottery picks had fizzled out on the franchises that drafted them before receiving a life raft from the Pistons.
Bagley was acquired last year, averaging 11.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in his first full season with the Pistons. At 23 years of age, Bagley has dealt with a myriad of injuries and has not managed to compete in more than 50 games in a single season since his rookie year.
As for Wiseman, the potential rewards are much higher for Detroit. The athletic big was buried in Golden State’s lineup and now has a chance to truly get some reps under his belt. He’s averaging 11.8 points and 8.2 rebounds in his first five games with the Pistons.
Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen enter this game with a clear advantage in talent. But, it’s best not to underestimate two bigs who are battling to prove themselves at the NBA level.
Can the bench build momentum?
One benefit of being +16 favorites, other than being +16 favorites, is the Cavaliers will have a chance to take care of business early and give their struggling second unit a chance to build momentum.
The Cavs’ second unit ranks 27th in points per game this season and has fallen to dead-last over their last 10 games. Part of this is because of Cleveland’s pace of play, which is the slowest in the NBA — and the fact that this bench plays the 26th fewest minutes a night.
The bench production is as bad as it looks, however, The Cavs’ backups place 23rd in 3-point percentage and 26th in field goal percentage overall. Caris LeVert, their highest-scoring member of the bench this season, is shooting just 19% from deep over his last 10 games.
Other key members of the bench, such as Dean Wade, have struggled with confidence. Wade has been a quality defender and rebounder but appears hesitant to shoot the ball, with his usage rate in the second percentile this season. Wade is a 37% 3-point shooter but hinders the offense when he does not put up shots.
Then, there is Ricky Rubio. The veteran guard has yet to recreate last season’s magic as he makes his way back from an ACL injury. Rubio’s movement is promising, with no signs of limited mobility, but he is shooting just 31% from the field.
Other names such as Danny Green, Cedi Osman, Lamar Stevens and Cleveland’s newest addition, Sam Merrill, could have an opportunity to earn minutes in this game. That is — if the Cavs build an early lead and give the bench time to assert themselves.