After a franchise record 13 game winning streak, the Cavs have stumbled coming out of the All-Star break going 0-3 and giving up more than 100 points in each of those contests. Free throw shooting has been poor and the defense has been even worse. Mike Brown has expressed his frustrations with the team defense and I would expect the defensive minded coach to fix that in a hurry. And by “in a hurry” I mean TONIGHT.
The Cavs will carry their three game skid back into the Q on Tuesday night to take on the ailing Hornets.
And here’s how the teams matchup:
Darren Collison vs. Mo Williams
As All-Star point guard Chris Paul misses time with a left knee injury, rookie Darren Colliso n will get the nod for Tuesday night’s matchup with the Cavaliers. Collison does not shoot the basketball at an extremely high percentage but the Cavs back court has done a poor job on the defensive end as of late. If Mo, Delonte West, AP and the rest of the guards can step it up and play the kind of hardnosed defense they did during the early stages of their 13 game win-streak, Cleveland should run away with this one with no problem.
Mo Williams hasn’t shot the ball at a particularly high percentage lately either. I expect him to have a coming out party on his home floor in front of “the best fans in the NBA.” I’m looking forward to seeing Mo back to form and on the floor with three other perennial All-Stars.
Advantage: Mo Williams
Morris Person vs. Anthony Parker
Mo-Pete doesn’t put up incredible numbers for the New Orleans Hornets but plays fairly well within his role. The shooting guard matchup is certainly not incredibly intriguing because neither guy scores too much. And neither guy has played very well defensively (especially AP as of late). I love the way Parker is aggressive on the defensive end when he is matched up against guys like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. But it’s against the lesser talents that he has his lapses.
With that being said, I can’t give him the advantage in this matchup because he has shown signs of fatigue and/or laziness lately. But I can’t give Mo-Pete the advantage either because, quite frankly, he’s just not that good. Therefore…
Advantage: No Contest
Peja Stojakovic vs. LeBron James
Peja Stojakovic has been one of the better shooters in the NBA over the last decade or so but his numbers have rapidly declined since he left Sacramento. Even in his prime though, no way he could match up with a guy like LeBron James. Jeff Van Gundy (who I am NOT a fan of) said it right the other day on TNT. Enough with this Superman nonsense between Shaq and Dwight Howard; LeBron James is the real superhero.
James is averaging an even 30 points a night to go along with almost 8.5 assists and more than 7 rebounds per contest. He hasn’t shot the ball very well from downtown lately but let’s give the guy a break, he does everything else so well. He’s allowed to have a flaw here and there.
Advantage: LeBron James
David West vs. Antawn Jamison
Like Jamison, David West was on the Cavs’ radar as the trade deadline approached. His game is very similar to Jamison’s but not quite as steady. His 18.2 points and 7.5 rebounds a night are solid. No doubt. But Jamison proved the other night against the Magic how versatile he is as a stretch four.
In his first start as a Cavalier, I expect Jamison to be very active on both ends of the floor and put on a show in his first action in the Q since being traded last Wednesday.
Advantage: Antawn Jamison
Emeka Okafor vs. Shaquille O’Neal
Emeka Okafor is nearly averaging a double-double for the Hornets this season with 10.8 points and 9.5 rebounds a night. His 1.77 blocks per game are, by far, the best on the team but there’s just no way that he can handle the Diesel.
Since Mo and Delonte West went down with injuries before the All-Star Break, Shaq has seemed to find the Fountain of Youth. When Shaq threw down a vicious one handed slam over Dwight Howard for the Cavs’ first two points the other night I thought for a second I was watching Shaqalier in his prime on ESPN Classic. His minutes will continue to increase as the season goes on and I would expect him to have a field day on Tuesday night against the smaller Okafor.
Advantage: Shaquille O’Neal
New Orleans Bench vs. Cleveland Bench
Marcus Thornton, Darius Songaila and James Posey do a halfway decent job for the Hornets off the bench but that’s where it ends for New Orleans. Cleveland may return Leon Powe to the floor on Tuesday night to add to a bench already consisting of Delonte West, Anderson Varejao, Jamario Moon, JJ Hickson and the list goes on. Nobody in the league has the depth that the Cavaliers have this season. Their bench is just way too versatile for opposing benches to compete with. Tonight won’t be much different than Cleveland’s other 43 wins-good defensive and great bench production coupled with a Mr. Fantastic-like performance from the Akron Hammer.
Advantage: Cleveland Bench