LAST TIME OUT
The Cleveland Cavaliers (10-20) are currently on a five-game skid, but the Wine & Gold have only lost their last three games by a total of nine points. The past three games include a double-overtime loss at home to the Atlanta Hawks and, on Sunday, a 108-104 overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors. Kyrie Irving hit a clutch three after the Warriors erased a 17-point second quarter deficit to take the lead early on in the fourth quarter. Cleveland didn’t have the fight in them on offense to end the losing streak in overtime, however. Next up, they have the Eastern Conference’s best team record-wise in the Indiana Pacers awaiting them on their home court.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: Indiana Pacers
Record: (24-5, 14-1 home)
Tipoff: Dec. 31 at 3 p.m. – Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: 89-74 Cavaliers loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse – Nov. 2
Opponent’s Blog: Always Miller Time
Cavaliers: C Andrew Bynum (OUT INDEFINITELY, team suspension)
The Lance Stephenson Show
Shooting guard Lance Stephenson leads the NBA in triple-doubles with not one, not two, but THREE games where he has filled the stat sheet with double digits in three different categories. Those performances include a 13-point, 11-rebound and 12-assist night against Memphis (Nov. 11), a 10-point, 11-rebound and 10-assist effort at Boston (Nov. 22) and a 12-point, 10-rebound and 10-assist game again against the Celtics at home (Dec. 22). A multi-talented threat in the backcourt is most definitely an unfavorable matchup for the Cleveland guards, as multiple opponents have exposed them as a one-dimensional core in most games this season. C.J. Miles and Dion Waiters will have their hands full with a dominant rebounding guard (6.8 RPG) and a player who can also spread the Indiana shooters with his passing game (team-leading 5.2 APG) on Tuesday.
“Two Steals A Game Doesn’t Hurt Either”
While watching the NBATV matchup between Chicago and Memphis on Monday night, this commercial appeared on my TV screen:
MVP candidate Paul George has been tremendous in all phases of the game all season long, posting averages of 23.9 points, 3.6 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 2.1 steals over the first 29 games. Over the previous four games, in which Indiana has won by an average of 22.8 points, George has put up averages of 24.5 points, while shooting 57.4 percent and 44.4 percent from three. With no real threat at small forward for the Cavaliers, this could be a game that George tops his career-high 43 points. This is especially very likely if the star small forward can find his stroke from beyond the arc, an area that he is excelling at in 2013-14 compared to his first three seasons in the League.
Facing The Starting Five For Indiana Should Be A Lesson For The Cavs
The togetherness that Indiana’s starting five show on and off the court should be a future model that the Cavaliers want to replicate. They have a tremendous feel for each other during the game, and it starts with belief. I don’t think that every Cavalier on the 2013-14 roster has this same trust in each other, and that’s excluding Andrew Bynum at this point. The Pacers are proving this season that defeat has made them a stronger unit, and the Cavaliers—being in multiple close-game and heartbreaking situations this season already—need to start learning from their defeats if they ever want to improve from being a below mid-level squad in the post-LeBron era. The Pacers are playing with a chip on their shoulder, and with all of the doubters the Cavaliers have had this season because of the high offseason expectations, they need to start modeling themselves attitude-wise after the team that awaits them on the court Tuesday afternoon.
It’s going to be ugly. Very ugly. Cleveland hasn’t played very well on the road to begin with (2-13), and Indiana has been cruising against opponents in both the top and bottom brackets of the NBA as of late. Expect an early blowout from the start with lots of work from Roy Hibbert down low and at least a 15-plus-point loss on New Year’s Eve.