LAST TIME OUT
Staging a fearless, yet shortcoming, retaliation against the Miami Heat on Saturday night, the Cavaliers returned to the Q to face the best of the Western Conference: the Portland Trail Blazers. Matching their intensity (except on the boards) for most of the game, a derailing run by Portland late in the fourth quarter seemingly put the Cavs out of reach. Kyrie and Dion brought the team back, tying the game at 116. Then Damian Lillard’s three-point dagger happened, leaving Cleveland standing motionless on the court.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 5-20 (3-9 away)
Tipoff: Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. – Quicken Loans Arena
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: 109-104 Cavaliers loss at BMO Harris Bradley Center – Nov. 6
Opponent’s Blog: Behind the Buck Pass
Bucks: SF Caron Butler (GAME-TIME DECISION, knee), PF Ersan Ilyasova (ankle, OUT), SG Gary Neal (OUT, foot), C Larry Sanders (OUT, thumb),
Cavaliers: PF Anthony Bennett (GAME-TIME DECISION, illness), PG Kyrie Irving (GAME-TIME DECISION, wrist), SG Dion Waiters (GAME-TIME DECISION, wrist)
Must-Win Game, No Question About It
I’m done with moral victories. I’ve been writing about them quite a bit because of the recent failings against two quality teams from both conferences. It’s time that this team starts winning games that, on paper, should be guaranteed victories. With the injuries and turmoil the Bucks have suffered this season, this is one of those games. Matched with Philadelphia as the only teams that I have slotted as non-contenders in the paltry Eastern Conference, the Bucks did win one of their two home games this season against the Cavs earlier in the season. This was when Cleveland was losing games that looked like must-wins. The Wine & Gold have looked like they have turned over a new leaf in the past few weeks, so I’m expecting a blowout win at the Q.
Mike Brown Expects To Win Every Rebounding Battle, And Friday Night Is No Different
With frontcourt injuries hindering the Bucks on the boards this season, Cleveland should run away with the rebounding battle Friday night. After being exposed by the Trail Blazers – being outrebounded by 12 and allowing Portland to secure 18 (!!!) offensive boards – Brown surely had a stern talking with his team the following practices leading up to this contest. The Bucks had 41 rebounds to Cleveland’s 39 in their last meeting, so that explains a lot. Whenever you post under 40 boards, you shouldn’t be coming away with victories very often (and same goes for when you allow another team to post 50-plus rebounds). Cleveland ranks in the very middle in the rebounding rate category (they collect 50.0 percent of missed shots), while Milwaukee is dead last at 46.9 percent. Should be an easy battle for Cleveland.
Perimeter Defense, Please
A HUGE reason why Cleveland is entering this game with a two-game losing streak is because of their effort defending the three. Ball movement has been key for Miami and Portland this season, and the Cleveland wing defenders have played porous defense in this area. In their last meeting, the Bucks shot 56.5 (!!!) percent from three thanks to a red-hot effort by O.J. Mayo (6 of 7 from beyond the arc). These games do happen when a player like Mayo gets extremely streaky, and O.J. is known for this. I’ll be looking in Kyrie and Dion’s direction a lot this game, as I’m not concerned about Alonzo Gee’s defensive effort.
I’m predicting a blowout. Milwaukee is coming off of a double-overtime defeat at home, and the Knicks even had Tyson Chandler back in the lineup for the first time. I’m not a believer in any of these teams, but taken into account Milwaukee’s front line this season, this game shouldn’t have been close. The Cavs frontcourt is angry, and I’m saying that Bynum has the best game of his Wine & Gold career tonight because of it. At least a 13-point victory for Cleveland, which will be good for the team heading to Chicago on Saturday.