LAST TIME OUT
The Cleveland Cavaliers continued their winning ways at home by coming away with their most lopsided victory of the season over the struggling New York Knicks. The 109-94 win also marked the first time that the Cavs entered triple digits since Nov. 22 in an away loss against the New Orleans Pelicans. Speaking of hitting the road, Cleveland is now stationed in Florida for a two-game trip against the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat. Can they reverse their bad fortunes on the road starting Friday night? It’s probably their best chance to.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: Orlando Magic
Record: 7-15 (5-5 home)
Tipoff: Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. – Amway Center
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: 91-85 Cavaliers win at Quicken Loans Arena – April 7
Opponent’s Blog: Presto in the Paint
Magic: SF Tobias Harris (will play, ankle)
The Cavaliers Are 1-10 On The Road
Yeah, it’s pretty awful, but I think Dion Waiters hit the nail on the head last Friday when the Atlanta Hawks blew out the team from the onset. Slow offensive starts on the road have doomed this team, and the “sense of urgency” that Dion touched on after the loss has to do with guys like Waiters missing in the starting lineup. Can Mike Brown come out with an altered starting lineup on Friday? I doubt he will, but I think it’s needed if this team wants to avoid getting buried early on in away games. We saw the run that the team made near the end of the Hawks game, and I don’t think that was just because of Atlanta letting up near the end. So with that said, I’m hoping to see Dion early on in this contest and guys like Matthew Dellavedova and Anthony Bennett, who have struggled offensively thus far, in later second quarter sets/when a victory is secured if that’s the case.
Another Big Who Isn’t Proficient At Protecting The Rim
At least not yet. There is no doubt that Nikola Vucevic is becoming one of the premier offensive threats down low in the Eastern Conference in his third season, but his D in the paint and the fact that he just returned to the starting lineup Wednesday night against the Bobcats means that Tristan Thompson and Andrew Bynum need to be involved early on in this contest. I’m looking at you, Kyrie Irving. The Cavs point guard undoubtedly played his best ball of the 2013-14 season on Tuesday night against the Knicks, but he’s going to need to realize mismatch opportunities in order to put his team in the best position to win in road environments. The renewed confidence in Bynum and Tristan’s overall play through 21 games thus far is very pleasing to see, and this is yet another opportunity for the frontcourt duo to continue their recent dominance. Attacking the rim against a big like Vucevic is a good game plan for this specific game, so let’s see if Cleveland can take advantage of this one early on.
Let’s Talk About Arron Afflalo
The Magic guard currently ranks 11th in points per game (21.6), ninth in field goal percentage amongst shooting guards (46.7 percent), 10th amongst shooting guards in three-point percentage (43.0 percent) and fourth amongst shooting guards in free throw percentage (86.5 percent). He’s definitely one of the biggest first-quarter surprises in the NBA and could spell trouble for the Cavaliers’ backcourt defense, which hasn’t been particularly good through 21 games. Shutting down one player in no way guarantees a victory for Cleveland, but it would definitely improve their chances vastly.
Although the Magic ended their six-game skid this past Wednesday against the Charlotte Bobcats by having seven Orlando players score in double digits, I think Cleveland comes away with their first away win since they beat the Washington Wizards in overtime in mid-November. They know how to win at home and have the health to do it on the road. I predict that this team comes out with a chip on their shoulder, and comes away with a hardy win at Amway Center.