LAST TIME OUT
After entering the third quarter down 19 points and falling behind by 22 at one point in the fourth quarter, the Cleveland Cavaliers (10-19) staged a ferocious comeback at TD Garden against the Boston Celtics. That comeback, unfortunately, was unsuccessful for the Wine & Gold, falling to the Celtics by a score of 103-100. If Cleveland can come out with the same intensity that they used to outscore the Cs by 16 points in the final frame, then maybe they stand a fighting chance against the Golden State Warriors at home on Sunday.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: Golden State Warriors
Record: 18-13 (7-9 away)
Tipoff: Dec. 29 at 6 p.m. – Quicken Loans Arena
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: 108-95 Cavaliers loss at Quicken Loans Arena – Jan. 29
Opponent’s Blog: Blue Man Hoop
Warriors: C Jermaine O’Neal (OUT, wrist)
Cavaliers: C Andrew Bynum (SUSPENDED, conduct detrimental to the team)
Three-Point Champion Needs To Reclaim The Throne
We’ve talked about Kyrie Irving’s shooting struggles to start the season so much throughout the first quarter of the season, but now it’s time to look at how Irving has turned the page on the first 20-plus games and is looking indestructible from almost anywhere on the court as of late. Over the past three games, Irving is shooting 50.0 percent from three and 53.6 percent from the field, while putting up 23 shots per game—almost four shots over his season average. On the flip side, Stephen Curry is currently shooting an incredibly impressive 40.9 percent of his 7.9 attempts per game from beyond the arc on the season. Curry most recently recorded a triple-double (14 points, 16 assists and 13 rebounds) against the Phoenix Suns in a Friday blowout victory and only needed 22 minutes to do it. Curry is proving to be the better all-around player, but he also has a supporting cast of Andrew Iguodala (53.1 FG%) and Klay Thompson (45.8 FG%) to open up the playing field for him. Because of the spread of shooters that Golden State vaunts, I still think the Warriors will see more success than the Cavs from three. There’s a reason they rank first in the league with a 40.3 percent mark from downtown.
A Tough Rebounding Battle Comes At A Tough Time For The Cavs
Recently I’ve been working on a rebounding-Cavaliers post that just went up today, and what better time for a challenging battle on the boards to come the Wine & Gold’s way than on the same day of publication. With that said, this matchup doesn’t bode well for the Cavaliers, especially in the backcourt. Curry is averaging 4.5 rebounds—the most since his rookie campaign—while the wings on Golden State are just doing a tremendous job at what the Cavaliers are miserably failing at. Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Iguodala are combining to average a total of 12 boards per game, while the pair of Alonzo Gee and Earl Clark are only coming down with just less than six total rebounds per game. Keep a special eye on Iguodala, as he will be one of the aforementioned players poised for a field day on the boards against the rebounding deficient wings and guards on the Cleveland roster. Combine that with the monster frontcourt duo of Andrew Bogut and David Lee, and you have a Top-5 rebounding team in the League.
Waiters Playing With A Chip On His Shoulder Good For Cavs
After having his shot demoralized by Brandon Bass in the final seconds of the game against the Celtics in an effort to tie the game, the fighter in Waiters will be full-on apparent at the Q on Sunday. This—something the Cavaliers have been missing during the stretch of three games that he missed recently—is one of the keys to making this a winnable game for the Cavaliers. Even though they won’t be matching up, two draft picks from the 2012 class, who both began as starters in the NBA, will be coming off the bench in this matchup. The latter of the two in regards to where they were chosen in the draft is Barnes, and it has been stated numerous times that Barnes, being a small forward, should have been a priority ahead of Waiters at the No. 4 pick. I’m hoping to see more intensity out of Waiters because of talks like these, especially since he has averaged 17.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 rebounds, while shooting 48.2 percent from the field (all greater than his season averages) since those “trade rumors” surfaced before a home contest against Miami. He’s the key player to victory in this contest because he is the glue that holds this bench together.
It’s hard for me to see this team winning any games until I hear/see something positive about locker room leadership and team chemistry despite picking them to top Boston in the previous matchup. Will this be a game like the recent Detroit home contest? No. Will it be similar to the thriller against Portland? Most likely not. But I do think this team will show more fight on the court with Bynum out of the picture, and that’s a step that definitely needs to be made over the next couple games. Expect an eight-point loss at the Q, but a very close eight points.