It took a bit, but the Cleveland Cavaliers won consecutive games for the first time this season on Friday, as they beat the Detroit Pistons in Cleveland’s second game of Group Play in the NBA In-Season Tournament. That followed up Cleveland’s win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night to cap a four-game Western road trip.
It’s not as if the Cavaliers beat two big-time teams in Portland and Detroit by any means, though, and both have had their share of injuries as well. The Cavs have to iron some things out before one could proclaim them as being fully on the right track, so-to-speak.
On a positive note, there have been some encouraging signs from the Cavaliers, such as what they’ve been getting from Evan Mobley and Max Strus, and Jarrett Allen seems to be getting more comfortable.
That said, it’s going to be a tall order for the Cavs in their next matchup, as they’ll face Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night. The reigning NBA champs have lost two of three games coming in, but there always going to be a handful, and are currently the top seed in the Western Conference.
Before getting into the analysis/preview, one will have to factor in the injury outlook first.
Cavs injuries: Donovan Mitchell (out, hamstring); Isaac Okoro (out, knee); Ricky Rubio (out, not with team); Ty Jerome (out, ankle); Isaiah Mobley (out, G League – Two-Way).
Nuggets injuries: Jamal Murray (out, hamstring); Vlatko Cancar (out, knee).
For those in the respective markets, this Cavaliers-Nuggets game will be available on Bally Sports Ohio and Altitude TV. Streaming options here include NBA League Pass and Fubo TV.
Even with Jamal Murray only active in seven games so far this season, Denver has still been one of the league’s top teams and clearly best offenses.
Obviously, with Nikola Jokic as the team’s driving force and with terrific shooting around him, the Nuggets are always going to be such a difficult matchup, and for anybody in years to come it seems, really.
For Cleveland, they’re going to have to try to keep Jokic off-balance, mixing in their help to him at times, potentially coming with late doubles here and there, but most importantly, not allowing to dominate by also getting everybody else involved throughout.
However, doing so is much, much easier than done, even with Murray out here; right now, Jokic is probably the NBA’s best player. And with the likes of Michael Porter Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and others as shooters, and Aaron Gordon and others as interior threats, containing Jokic as a playmaker and offensive engine is so hard to do.
Now, offensively, Cleveland seems to be getting some of their mojo back, and in this one, the Cavaliers are going to need Darius Garland to give the club juice early as a shooter and make good decisions consistently to help get others going.
For Cleveland, however, while the Cavaliers putting pressure on the rim to score and though some early offensive looks can make a difference, without the likes of Mitchell here, it’s just hard to foresee the Cavs having quite enough offensively to beat Denver.
Prediction: Nuggets 112, Cavs 108
After this matchup with the Nuggets, the Cavaliers will take on Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on the road in their third game of NBA In-Season Tournament Group Play Tuesday night. The Cavs will look to go 2-1 in Group A then, prior to Cleveland hosting the Miami Heat in the second leg of their next back-to-back on Thanksgiving Eve on Wednesday night.
Following those contests, the Cavaliers will host hometown and Cavaliers legend LeBron James against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night.