Feb 24, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) drives to the basket as Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson (13) defends during the second half at the American Airlines Arena. MIami won 109-105. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Game 15: Cleveland Cavaliers versus Miami Heat Preview


LAST TIME OUT

The Cavaliers (4-10) were embarrassed in San Antonio, losing by 30 to the Spurs. The game was largely lost in the second quarter, when the Wine & Gold scored a whopping 11 points and finished the first half with a 32 points. Despite a stronger showing the second half, the Cavaliers lost 126-96. Despite the blowout: there were two positives. First off, Andrew Bynum looked great against Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan on the block. Secondly, Anthony Bennett was four of five from the field in garbage time – possibly meaning he’s on the right track. But overall, the Spurs loss was disheartening and a reminder that the Cavaliers are simply not a good basketball team right now.

THIS TIME UP

The Opponent: Miami Heat

Record: 11-3 (3-2 on the road)

Tipoff: Nov. 27, 7:30 PM at Quicken Loans Arena

Where you can watch: ESPN, Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass

Where you can listen: WTAM 1100

Previous Matchup: Heat 96, Cavaliers 95. April 15th, 2013 (Last Season)

Opponent’s Blog: All U Can Heat

How do the Cavaliers defend LeBron James?

James is the worst type of player for the Cavaliers to defend. At small forward, James is too fast, too strong and too skilled for any of the Cavaliers small forwards to defend. Let’s run down the list: Alonzo Gee is too small. Earl Clark is too slow. And C.J. Miles is an awful wing defender no matter how you look at it. Thus, the Cavaliers are going to have to get creative to defend the league’s best player.

One option the Cavaliers have will be to use Tristan Thompson on James in the post. He won’t be able to handle James on the wing, but he’ll be able to body up LeBron better in the post than any of the small forwards will be able to. Even here, I expect the Cavaliers to double James early and often. Even if Ray Allen and others are dangerous, it’s a better strategy to make them beat you then let James operate one-on-one.

For stretches, I expect the Cavaliers to do alright against James. They can’t completely slow him down, but they at least have a few options to defend the reigning MVP. A good performance against James will also bode well for the rest of week, when the Cavs take on athletic wings such as Boston’s Jeff Green and Chicago’s Loul Deng.

And the Cavaliers X-Factor is…

It’s Andrew Bynum, without question. Outside of Kyrie Irving’s matchup against Mario Chalmers, his performance inside will largely dictate how the Cavaliers fare on offense. Ideally, Bynum will get going early, causing Miami to double inside and create open looks for Irving, Dion Waiters, Jarrett Jack and others. That is if Bynum passes more out of the post than he has so far this seaosn.

Bynum will also be a major factor on defense. He can’t defend the pick & roll by getting out in front of the pick, so he’ll be inclined to sit back and hold down the paint. But this actually works against the Heat, as James and Dwayne Wade will attack the rim consistently. Bynum’s presence in the middle, while not a shot blocking threat, should slow down the onslaught of Miami’s rim attacks.

And if Bynum can be successful during his minutes on the floor at slowing down Miami’s interior scoring,  then he can enable the Cavaliers wing defenders to focus on closing out on large amount of shooters Miami has on the wing. So, without question, Bynum’s play will have a wide-ranging effect on this Cavaliers team against the Heat. The better he plays, the better the team will preform as a whole.

More about those shooters

So the Heat have been insanely good from behind the arc so far this season. As it stands right now, Ray Allen is shooting 40 percent from three this season and he has the eighth best percentage. This makes it imperative that the Cavaliers close out on the Heat shooters and limit the amount of open looks Miami gets on the wings.

Miami is great at creating space on offense and doing something I wish the Cavaliers could do better: kicking the ball out from the inside for open threes. And in general, the Heat have great spacing. When they run isolation, the player with the ball has enough space to make a move. They also design their plays so someone like Allen or Shane Battier is available to take a three if the first option doesn’t work.

As the above video shows, elite defensive teams like the Indiana Pacers are able to shut down the Heat’s offensive juggernaut. The Cavaliers, however, are not in Indiana’s league. The only similarity I see is that Anderson Varejao always comes out high against screens – something that Indiana did against Miami. Outside of that, it’s going to take a superb effort for every Cavalier on the floor to stop the Heat from getting open looks on the wing.

Prediction

There is a good chance the Cavaliers come out and preform well on the national stage. It’s their first nationally televised game this season, against the defending champs who just so happen to feature a player many think will become a Cavalier again this offseason. Simply put, this Cavaliers-Heat game is high profile, full of spectacle – the kind of games similar Cavalier teams have unexpectedly shown up in the past. And they have a player – Irving – who has historically played big on the big stage.

Still, this is Miami’s game to lose. They are a horrible style matchup for the Cavaliers and are playing very good basketball right now, while the Cavaliers are not. Barring an incredible performance by Irving and – for the lack of a better word – randomly good production from the reserves, this is a Heat blowout waiting to happen.

Tags: Anderson Varejao Andrew Bynum Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving Tristan Thompson