1. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters have really clicked in the last game and a half. Is there a specific reason this is happening?
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: While it doesn’t fully explain it, Mike Brown cutting back Jarrett Jack’s minutes to under 20 (despite him starting) has given Irving and Waiters a chance to play together in extended minutes and they have been feeding off each other. It’s possible that they’ve actually been good together this whole time – and it was lost in the shuffle – but in the last two games it’s been noticeable. Playing on the court with Luol Deng, this duo has fed off one another and stayed out of each other’s way when one got hot. For example, against the Grizzlies, Irving took over at the end of the game and then Waiters got rolling in overtime and took over. It’s not conclusive proof that they can coexist, but it’s exciting to see them gel even in small bursts.
Marlowe Alter, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: I don’t think there’s been a specific reason other than they’ve both had good nights. It’s only been two games but it’s certainly been a positive sign to see Irving and Waiters co-existing. Cleveland has won two straight thanks to the efforts from its two top dogs. Waiters only shot 7-of-21 from the floor against Memphis but he contributed six assists, while Irving was on fire from long range and got to the free throw line. Watching how these two play together may be the biggest storyline on the court for the Cavs as they come down the home stretch.
2. Can the Cavaliers contain DeMarcus Cousins?
CM: If they can, it’s because Anderson Varejao gets into Cousins’ head early. However, Boogie got rolling the first matchup between these two teams and had no trouble doing whatever he wanted on the boards and on offense. And considering that the Cavaliers aren’t the league’s best team at defending pick and rolls (or post-ups, for that matter) my answer has to be no. The Cavaliers defense just isn’t built to defend a player like Cousins. Expect Boogie to have a big night against the Cleveland defense.
MA: Boogie Cousins is one of the best big men in the league but he is sometimes overlooked because he plays in Sacremento. Cousins is having a career season, averaging nearly 23 points and 12 rebounds. He is sixth in the league with an astounding 26.3 PER rating, third in free throw attempts per game at 8.9 and fourth in double-doubles with 32. If Varejao can be physical with the mercurial Cousins, Andy has a chance to frustrate the Kings’ star. Varejao must stay out of foul trouble because Cousins will overpower the Cavs’ frontline.
3. Why does Kyrie Irving seemingly struggle against Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas?
CM: In short, I think it’s because Irving still struggles with stopping his man from penetrating the lane and that is something Thomas is excellent at doing. With the Kings, Thomas runs a high number of pick and rolls, a play Irving really struggles with defending. It’s not all his fault – Varejao’s tendency to hedge hard makes it easy for teams to exploit the Cavaliers PNR defense because they have no rim protector – but the blame still somewhat lies with him. Thomas just does everything that gives Irving fits and, as a result, he struggles against a player he is no doubt better than.
MA: Thomas is a favorite for most improved player and has only taken off since being inserted into the starting lineup in early December. Thomas is exceedingly quick and cunning with the ball in his hands, using his first step and change of direction dribbles to blow by unsuspecting defenders. He is lethal in pick and rolls because of his speed, handles and shooting abilities so if Irving doesn’t bring effort on the defensive end, Thomas could destroy him.