The last time the Cleveland Cavaliers (18-37) took on the Miami Heat (39-14), it was a closer game than anyone might have expected. With Kyrie Irving out, former Cavalier Jeremy Pargo played one of his best games, and without some late game heroics from Ray Allen the Wine and Gold may have pulled off a huge upset in Miami. Now with Irving healthy, the Cavaliers will travel back to South Beach to take on the premier team in the Eastern Conference.
Opponent’s Blog: All U Can Heat
Venue: American Airlines Arena – Miami, FL
Tipoff: Sunday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.
Betting Line: Miami by -12.5
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio
Where you can listen: WTAM (1100), WFUN (970 AM)
While the Cavaliers miss center Anderson Varejao every game they play, tonight is a game in which his missing presence will be noted. The Heat, as it stands right now, are last in the league in rebounds, averaging 38.7 boards. When you break it down a little further, the Heat are tied for 19th in the league in defensive rebounds at 30.2 boards per game. This will be troublesome for the Cavaliers, as they rank 30th in that category.
My belief is this: the Cavs need to win big in the rebounding department to win tonight. As the stats indicate, the Cavs are a better overall rebounding team, but it’s also a little closer than people really seem to believe.
Miami also has one big advantage on the Cavaliers: field goal percentage. The Heat are shooting 49.5 percent from the field – first in the NBA. Comparably, Cleveland is 28th in the league at 43.2 percent. That gap is incredible.
For Cleveland to even have a chance of winning, Irving is going to play a big game. In wins, Irving is averaging 28.4 points and shooting 53.4 percent from the field. In losses, he is averaging 20.6 points and shooting 43.0 percent from the field. Those gaps are unbelievable as well. In a very short amount of time, Irving has become so important to the Cavaliers. When he is on, they are a team with a star player that can compete with the league’s top squads. When he’s off, the team is as pitiful as their record indicates.
Irving could especially be key tonight because of the matchup with Mario Chalmers. It’s the one position on the floor where the Cavs will have an advantage. LeBron James is better than Alonzo Gee. Dwayne Wade is better than Dion Waiters. Chris Bosh is slightly better than Tristan Thompson. And Udonis Haslem is better than Tyler Zeller.
But Irving is better than Chalmers, and he could have a big night against the Miami floor general. Even so, that will likely not be enough to get the win. The Heat are just a better team with the best player on the planet. Unless James fouls out before halftime (which is not going to happen), this is going to be a hard game for the Cavaliers to win. The Heat are just to good for the Cavaliers to realistically challenge them for 48 minutes.