Update: Kyrie Irving is questionable to play tonight due to being sick. He was not present for shootaround earlier in the day.
Tip off time – 9:00 PM ET
Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
The Cleveland Cavaliers (9-28) are coming off of one of their best games of the season. They beat a pretty good Atlanta Hawks team by 16 points. In that game the Cavaliers got great performances from their two young big men, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller, and another out-of-this world performance from Kyrie Irving.
They will need similar performances from all three again on Friday.
The Wine and Gold head to the Mile High City knowing they will be without Anderson Varejao for at least six to eight weeks. While it is obvious that he will be missed, no game may show it more that against the Denver Nuggets (21-16), who come into the game as the second-best rebounding team in the Association.
Aside from being a great rebounding team led by big man Kenneth Fried, they have a very efficient and balanced offensive attack that is currently ranked seventh in the NBA in points and fifth in field-goal percentage. They are also winners of four of their last five, and have only lost twice at home this year.
Suffice to say the Cavaliers will have their hands full. Let’s take a closer look at the stats:
Cavaliers: 94.6 PPG (24th) — .418 FG Percentage (29th) — 29th in assist-to-turnover ratio
Nuggets: 102.1 PPG (7th) — .465 FG Percentage (5th) — 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio
Cavaliers: 99.8 (24th) – .472 FG Percentage (Dead Last) — 41.9 RPG (18th)
Nuggets: 99.5 (23rd) — .432 FG Percentage (6th) — 46.2 RPG (2nd)
Looking at the stats, the obvious glaring difference is in offensive production. The Nuggets are better in every facet of offense than the Cavaliers and their numbers get even better when they are at home. The Cavaliers lack of defense, especially on the road, may be too tough of a task to overcome.
Matchups to Watch
The rebounding edge:
The Nuggets are one of the most balanced rebounding teams, with six players averaging over five rebounds per game. The Cavaliers have only three and one (Varejao) is not going to play. So the two youngsters Zeller and Thompson are going to have to show up in a big way for the Cavaliers to have a chance on the glass.
Kyrie vs. Lawson and Miller
On most nights the Cavaliers have the advantage at the point guard spot. And make no mistake Irving will be the best player on the court. However, the combination of Lawson, who is a high-energy offensive player and an above average defender, and Miller, a time-tested veteran, may add up to a tough day for Irving.
The Bottom Line – The Cavaliers are 12-point underdogs for a reason. With all the injuries, they just don’t seem to have the horses to stay with the Nuggets. However,there is one important thing about the Cavaliers; as long as No. 2 is suiting up, you can never count them out