LAST TIME OUT
The Cavaliers fell 96-81 to the Bulls in Chicago in a performance that highlighted some of Cleveland’s biggest issues. The Wine & Gold struggled to initiate their offense in certain lineups and they were outscored by 11 points in the final period. There were positives – namely a strong early performance from Andrew Bynum and Tristan Thompson holding his own against one of the best front lines in the NBA – but it was still a loss that indicates that the Cavaliers are a long way from a finished product.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: Minnesota Timberwolves
Tipoff: Nov. 13, 8 p.m. at the Target Center.
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: November 4th, Cavaliers 93, Timberwolves 92
Opponent’s Blog: Dunking With Wolves
First Act: How will Kyrie Irving preform?
For the season, Irving is shooting 37.7 percent from the field and 35 percent even from behind the three-point line, giving him a 19.4 points per game average. Irving has had big nights – namely against Philadelphia and Milwaukee – but hasn’t dazzled consistently as he has in seasons past. Against Minnesota, Irving will get a firm – but easily passable – test in the Ricky Rubio-J.J. Barea combination. While both are solid on the defensive end, Irving has more than enough tools at his disposal to play well. Defensively, it’ll be a test for Irving, as the Wolves have two players – Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic – that enable them to run pick & rolls on top of more pick & rolls. That play – the bread & butter play of the NBA – is weakness for Irving, as he hasn’t quite figured out how to get around screens fast enough to limit their effectiveness.
He can preform – we know this – but will he?
Kevin Love, current MVP frontrunner
Between Kevin Love and Anthony Davis, the NBA has found itself two major budding stars. Love – whom the Knicks are already planning on courting in 2015 - would the MVP if the season ends today. Just take a look at his stat line: 26.4 PPG, 15.0 RPG, 46.7 percent shooting, 5.0 APG. He’s been a terror for the media too, as he awesomely ignored a non-question the other day in Los Angeles after a close loss to the Clippers. And he’s also a passing God.
From the Cavaliers perspective, Love is a stern test for Tristan Thompson. The Cavaliers power forward has played very well thus far, but Love is different animal. Love held him to 5-13 shooting in the previous matchup, so let’s see how Thompson responds. He’s likely going to get outplayed. but if he can preform a little better offensively, I’ll be happy.
Pace, Pace, Pace
Who is able to control the tempo of this game will have an advantage and likely pull out the W. The T-Wolves currently are operating at the league’s highest pace, per John Hollinger’s advanced statistics. The Cavaliers, who come in at 14th in pace and the are second to last in offensive efficiency, have shown an inclination to run more half-courts sets this year. And when you go back and watch the film from the first game between these two teams, the Cavaliers were able to pull out the ‘W’ when they controlled the pace on both ends, ran their sets and struggled heavily when Minnesota got out in transition.
The Cavaliers almost lost that game because Minnesota was able to get out and run in the fourth quarter. They held on due to some timely shot making and forcing Kevin Love to take a bad shot as the buzzer sounded. In the Timberwolves can get out and run for the majority of the game, then things could get ugly in the Target Center.
The Cavaliers are winless on the road thus far and I think it stays that way after tonight. I’m expecting a better game out of Irving, but I’m concerning as to where else the offensive will come from. Andrew Bynum won’t be back until Saturday and outside of C.J. Miles coming off the bench, it’s hard to peg a Cavalier who has a favorable matchup. Thus, I see the T-Wolves taking this by at least an eight point margin.