1. With Kyrie Irving out for at least the next two weeks, Dion Waiters has a chance to stake a claim to the Cavaliers that he is a building block and possibly more than just a high usage bench scorer. Can he rise to the occasion?
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: I think it might be asking a little much of Dion Waiters to transition into the number one role over the next two weeks. Waiters is an excellent scorer, and can go on runs to bring a big boost to the offense. However, his inefficiencies in shooting make him a little non-viable as a top scoring option. This is especially true against teams with good defenses, which the Cavs will face this week in the Heat and the Thunder. I think focusing the offense completely around Waiters is going to end poorly when the Cavs play these teams. Also, I don’t think they need to do this to be successful offensively. Luol Deng has looked really good lately and has thrived this season when trusted with running a major part of the offense in Chicago and now in Cleveland. Likewise, Spencer Hawes will probably have an opportunity to be in an increased role, minus the technicals. I think if these three can find a way to be cohesive together, the offense might not crater as badly as it did when Kyrie sat out at the beginning of the year.
Marlowe Alter, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: I agree that the offense can still succeed if Mike Brown doesn’t put all of Irving’s responsibilites on Waiters. Deng and Hawes are capable veterans who can step up in Irving’s absence. In Chicago, Deng was accustomed to carrying the scoring load, filling in as the primary scorer when Derrick Rose missed chunks of time, while Hawes is used to touching the ball on nearly every possession. Waiters obviously isn’t the outside shooter that Irving is, but he can certainly fill it up. Whether he can get his teammates involved and how efficiently he scores remain his biggest questions. I think he’ll score close to 20 points during this stretch, but if he tries to do it all by himself, the Cavs will fall hard.
2. True or False: This is the most winnable game this week for the Cavaliers.
TM: I feel like it is. The Cavs play the Heat, Thunder, and Rockets this week, so none of these games can really be classified as winnable. However, if the Cavs do get a win, I’d pick this game over any others. The Thunder have to be livid about how the last game against the Cavs went, and I think we’ll see the Cavs ripped to shreds by an angry pitbull. Russell Westbrook is that pitbull, and he’s going to wreck the Cavs’ backup guards. Houston is a horrific style matchup for the Cavs, as we saw when these teams last played. I expect that game to not go well. Granted, the Heat probably need this game to get back on track, and will probably win as well. However, If the Cavs are going to win one this week, I think this is the one.
MA: The Cavaliers usually play Miami tough, but they don’t ever win. Even though Miami hasn’t played its best ball recently, they still should pull this game out behind James, Wade, Bosh and a cast of veterans led by Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers. The Cavs have however, already slayed Oklahoma City on the road and with Russell Westbrook possibly resting because the game will be the first game of a back-to-back (he sat out Sunday’s game before playing on Monday), I think Thursday is Cleveland’s best chance to snag a victory. The Thunder are just 6-6 over their past 12 games, which includes a stunning 114-104 loss at the hands of the Cavs on February 26. Kevin Durant may tear Mike Brown’s defense apart but without Westbrook, I think the Cavs can hang in there and give the Thunder a run.
3. The Heat are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. With their offensive efficiency numbers taking a dip lately, can the Cavs’ frontcourt capitalize on this?
TM: If the Cavs are going to beat the Heat tonight, this is the area that will make it happen. The backcourt may be in shambles with the injuries to C.J. Miles and Irving, but the frontcourt is finally fully healthy. Chris Bosh has really struggled to maintain a solid rebounding level as the Heat have struggled, and he’s going to be spending a lot of time away from the basket as he attempts to corral Hawes, Varejao, and Zeller. LeBron has a tough test as well, because even as awful as Tristan Thompson has been lately, the one thing he’ll be able to do is contest LeBron on the glass. Varejao’s also been particularly excellent on the glass since his return from injury, and he’ll be operating mostly against Birdman and Michael Beasley off the Heat bench, so that’s promising. If the Cavs can get the Heat to miss shots like they did to the Clippers Sunday, I think they’ll make this game a lot closer than you’d expect.
MA: Size on the interior has been Miami’s weak spot for four years now and if you have big bodies, you have a fighting chance. The Heat have been a good rebounding team in the past, but this season they’re ranked 28th in rebounding rate while the Cavs are tied for 10th. Outside of the ancient Greg Oden, the Heat lack a true center, opting to start Bosh at the five throughout most of their ‘big three’ tenure. Oden made his second start of the season on Sunday against Houston, corraling six boards in 13 minutes yet his impact is limited because of chronic knee ailments. The Cavs have the size advantage with Hawes, Varejao, Zeller, Thompson and Deng and should clean the glass against a smaller Miami squad. If the Cavaliers can give themselves extra possessions while limiting Miami on the other end, they’ll stay in the game.