LAST TIME OUT
The Cavaliers (4-9) fell in New Orleans last night, blowing a 12 point lead and losing 104-100 to the Pelicans. Even in the loss, there were positives for the Wine & Gold. They were able to hold Anthony Davis under his season scoring average and got solid performances from Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack. They may have lost, but at least, even in a loss, we saw improvements from people who have struggled consistently so far this season.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: San Antonio Spurs
Record: 11-1 (5-0 at home)
Tipoff: Nov. 23 , 8:30 p.m. at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: Spurs 199, Cavaliers 113 – March 13th, 2013 (Last season)
Opponent’s Blog: Air Alamo
So this Kwahi Leonard guy
Even on a team featuring Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the ghost of Manu Ginobli, I think Kwahi Leonard is poised to rip the Cavaliers apart at the small forward spot. When he’s playing offense, who can defend him? Alonzo Gee is too small. Earl Clark is too slow. Size and speed wise, Anthony Bennett may be the best option, but he’s a horrible defender. Simply but, there is not one player on the Cavaliers roster who can adequately defend Leonard.
When he’s playing defense, Leonard could also float around and man up on a variety of Cavaliers. Considering the lack of offensive moves from Gee and Clark, I think the Spurs could get away with using Leonard on different Cavaliers. For instance, Leonard could used to defend Kyrie Irving. They could then swift Parker onto Dion Waiters/Jarrett and Danny Green into Gee, Clark or C.J. Miles. That’s a nightmare for the Cavaliers, Leonard could fully eliminate Irving from the game.
Leonard is a legit two-way player and tonight is a prime example for him to show it.
How will the Cavaliers score tonight?
The Spurs, as it stands, allow the second least points per game in the NBA and are eighth in defensive efficiency. They are also suited to defend everyone of the Cavaliers, from Irving all the way up to Andrew Bynum (if he actually plays).
This means the Cavaliers are going to have to get creative to score tonight. This could mean more of using Irving off the ball, using ball screens to get Irving open for shots on the perimeter. Oddly enough, I think the Cavaliers should use the Spurs own Hammer sets to get Irving open.
If you watch that set, I would like to see Waiters/Jack playing the Ginobli roll, while Irving will play the Green roll. It’s not exactly the same, but to score, the Cavaliers are going to need Irving to score and this is one way to do it.
Also, if Bynum plays, they’ll need to feed him early and often. Tiago Spliter and Tim Duncan should be able to do a okay job on the big fella, but if he can push around Joakim Noah, I think he can do the same here. And if he can score, they’ll forced to double-down which could open up shots on the wing for Irving, Jack and others.
Tony Parker versus Kyrie Irving
Assuming the A) Parker plays and B) they match-up on both sides of the ball, this is by far the best match up to watch. As it stands, Parker is better player, even if Irving has more skills at this disposal. Each man should be able to push the other hard and that makes this a must watch.
The most interesting thing about this match up to me is what Irving an learn from it. San Antonio is built to run pick and rolls/pops right at Irving – something he’s absolutely horrible at defending. The video below – while successful – highlights some of the troubles the Cavaliers have in defending the pick & roll.
For staters, Varejao’s tendency to come out aggressively and hedge means that Al Horford is sitting wide open in the middle if Jeff Teague can hit him with the pass. Switch out Horford and Teague and you get a deadlier version of that duo. Duncan is money from that range where Horford receives the ball and Parker is one of the best – if not the best – and getting into the lane with passes and drives. That makes tonight a real test for the Cavaliers defense, which has been very good this seasons sans the second Minnesota game.
I can’t see how the Cavaliers win this game, if we are being honest with ourselves. The Spurs are one of the league’s best defense teams and, for the most part, but the Cavaliers have largely struggled on offense. Couple that with the fact that the Spurs are literally better than the Cavaliers at every single position and this is a game Cleveland is poised to lose. Maybe they can catch a break if Gregg Popovich decides to rest his veterans on the second half of a back-to-back, but that’s the only way the Cavaliers can have success. If the Spurs play their full roster, the Cavaliers will lose by double digits.