After the Cleveland Cavaliers handled their business on Wednesday and Friday night in wins over the Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons, a totally different level of opponent was on the docket on Sunday night. The Cavaliers played host to the reigning NBA champs in the Denver Nuggets.
Fortunately for the Wine and Gold, they rose up to the challenge, and had a wire-to-wire W. Nikola Jokic did make some things happen out there, as he always does for Denver, but Jokic fell into foul trouble and had five fouls in the third quarter. Additionally, Cleveland’s active team defense and terrific ball movement resulted in Cleveland controlling the game in the second half.
Now next up for the Cavaliers will be their game of NBA In-Season Tournament Group Play, where the Cavaliers face the Philadelphia 76ers. Philadelphia has won last two outings over the Atlanta Hawks and then Brooklyn Nets, and post-James Harden, the Sixers currently have the league’s second-best record.
First, let’s touch on the injury outlook for Tuesday night’s In-Season Tournament matchup between Cleveland and Philadelphia.
Cavs injuries: Donovan Mitchell (out, hamstring); Isaac Okoro (out, knee); Ty Jerome (out, ankle); Ricky Rubio (out, Not With Team); Caris LeVert (questionable, knee).
Sixers injuries: Kelly Oubre Jr. (out, ribs); Ricky Council IV, Javonte Smart and Terquavion Smith (out, G League – Two-Way).
This game will have plenty of national draw, with it being a TNT matchup. In terms of regional coverage, those in respective markets will the game available on NBC Sports Philadelphia and AFN. And as it pertains to streaming, NBA League Pass, Max and Sling TV should have this.
Going against the Sixers here, it’s imperative for the Cavaliers that Darius Garland keeps up the high-level play he’s had for them over the past week or so. With Philly having an emerging star rolling in Tyrese Maxey, who looks to be the perfect complement to Joel Embiid sans James Harden, if Garland can get the Cavs off to a solid start on offense, that could bode well for the Wine and Gold as a whole.
Philadelphia has been playing great basketball, for the most part in early-season, as was previously alluded to, and the Cavs being without Mitchell again could make this difficult, and with it being a road game on top of that. Having Caris LeVert potentially involved could help, though, with how much of a spark he’s given Cleveland off the bench thus far.
To some degree, however, this one could come down to if Cleveland’s key bigs in Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen can limit their fouls, which is always easier said than done going against Joel Embiid. Embiid is so hard to deal with as is, and he’s always among the league leaders in foul drawing.
If one and/or both of Cleveland’s defensive erasers gets into foul trouble relatively early, that could make things especially tough going against Philly’s drivers. That’s when more consistent spray-out opportunities could happen as a result as well.
For now, even with the Cavaliers’ impressive W over the Nuggets on Sunday, in this In-Season Tournament Group Play matchup, with the Cavaliers without Mitchell, and Isaac Okoro’s defense, Philadelphia seems likely to pull this out at home.
In a must-win for the In-Season Tournament, the Cavs would be in a rough spot in that with a loss here, but in early-season especially, them being cautious with injuries is understandable. And with his being the first leg of a back-to-back for teams, that’s something to consider, too.
Prediction: Sixers 114, Cavs 108
Cleveland will host the Miami Heat in the second leg of this next back-to-back for them on Wednesday on Thanskgiving Eve, and then after that, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers will come to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Saturday.
Following that Lakers game, the Cavs have the second leg of that back-to-back on Sunday versus the Toronto Raptors.