Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Game 17: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons Preview

LAST TIME OUT

On Saturday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers (10-16) were defeated by the Chicago Bulls by a score of 100-84. The loss is even uglier when you consider that Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose were all out for the Bulls. Outside of a decent game from Andrew Bynum, no Cavalier had a productive night in Chicago. As a result, the Cavaliers again lost to a team they probably should have beaten considering all the pieces the Bulls’ were missing.

THIS TIME UP

The Opponent: Detroit Pistons

Record: 13-16 (7-6 on the road)

Tipoff: Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. — Quicken Loans Arena

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

Where you can listen: WTAM 1100

Previous Matchup:  Cavaliers 96, Pistons 84 (October 17th, preseason game)

Opponent’s Blog: Life on Dumars

Injury Report

Pistons: Chauncey Billups (GAME-TIME DECISION)

Cavaliers: SG Dion Waiters (GAME-TIME DECISION, wrist)

So the Cavaliers lost by 16 in Chicago

How the Cavaliers respond to their latest drubbing will tell us a lot about how the Cavaliers preform tonight. If the team comes out motivated and energized (something they weren’t in Chicago) this is a very winnable game. The Cavaliers have advantages at point guard, shooting guard and, with the right lineups, should be competitive at every other position. But if this team comes out lethargic and falls behind early? This could result in an ugly performance on their home floor.

A think a lot of this depends on Kyrie Irving’s health. He was able to play through his sickness against the Bucks, but his long night of work against the Bucks resulted in Irving having nothing left in the tank for Saturday. And considering the state of the Cavaliers team, as the Cavaliers go, Irving goes. How he plays and how healthy he is, will determine how the Cavaliers play as a whole.

Can the Cavaliers handle Detroit’s size?

The short answer here is that the Wine & Gold will have a tough time defending the Pistons’ massive frontline. Andre Drummond should dominate every angle of his matchup with Andrew Bynum and Tristan Thompson vs. Greg Monroe will be interesting, considering that Monroe is two inches taller than Thompson, but the Cavaliers’ top Canadian may have a skill set that can give Monroe fits. The wild card here is Josh Smith, who has been dreadful since moving from the ATL to Motor  City. Struggling as a shooter, it’s clear he fits better at the four spot than as a three, but is stuck in wing purgatory. If Alonzo Gee starts tonight, he may be primed for a solid night. But if Earl Clark plays minutes at the three, then the Cavaliers may be able to adequately defend Smith.

All in all, the Cavaliers are going to struggle to defend the Pistons size. No matter who they turn to, Detroit will have some advantages. But if the Cavaliers can do a solid job, then they maybe this game is winnable.

The risk & reward of Bynum

Directly relating to the above question, Andrew Bynum could be in for a long night against the Pistons. Drummond should be able to really limit everything Bynum does well and there is no way I can see Bynum really getting going in his game. Usually, when Bynum has matched up against good defensive centers (Joakim Noah for example) he has a size advantage that helps him have his way in the post (except when he gets double-teamed) and can also clean up on the boards against smaller centers.

The Cavaliers may be best served to use Bynum almost exclusively when Monroe plays center with Smith at power forward. That lineup longs the third most minutes for the Pistons (per 82games.com) and is prime for Bynum to maximize his effectiveness. And to counter Drummond, the Cavaliers’ should go small and to run as much as possible, mostly with a lineup of Irving/Waiters/Miles/Clark/Varejao or something similar. It may not be perfect and has it’s issues, but it’s better than playing the Pistons’ tempo and getting beat at a game they can’t win.

Prediction

Expect this to be a close game (which doesn’t necessarily mean an exciting game or good basketball). Both teams have their advantages in this matchup, but there are obvious areas for both teams to exploit. All things considered, despite the potential for Detroit to destroy Cleveland on the inside, the Cavaliers have more tools in their tool kit and are more functional as a basketball team (I can’t believe I just wrote that). I say the Wine & Gold win this 97-93 behind a big night from Irving, who has a very favorable matchup against Brandon Jennings.

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Tags: Andrew Bynum Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving

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