Pic credit: nba.com
Matchup: San Antonio Spurs vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
When: 7:00 ET, ESPN
San Antonio Spurs (Depth Chart):
PG: Tony Parker, Cory Joseph
SG: Danny Green, Manu Ginobili
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Marco Belinelli, Austin Daye, Kyle Anderson
PF: Tim Duncan, Matt Bonner, Jeff Ayers
C: Borris Diaw, Aron Baynes, Tiago Splitter
Cleveland Cavaliers (Depth Chart):
PG: Kyrie Irving, Will Cherry
SG: Shawn Marion, Dion Waiters, Joe Harris
SF: LeBron James, Mike Miller, James Jones
PF: Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Lou Amundson
C: Anderson Varejao, Brendan Haywood, Alex Kirk
Key Matchup: Kawhi Leonard vs. LeBron James
Heading into the 10th game of the new LeBron Era in Cleveland, the Cleveland Cavaliers (5-4) take on a familiar foe in the San Antonio Spurs (6-4). This game is on ESPN tonight and SportsCenter has continuous coverage all day live from Cleveland. As we look forward to this game tonight lets look back for a minute. Of course, as Cleveland fans, we know that LeBron James has had a rivalry with the San Antonio Spurs for the past 8 years now. The rivalry is always extremely competitive and always creates a huge amount of excitement. Over the past two years, LeBron has played the Spurs in the finals and after a surprising win in 2013, the Spurs smoked the Heat in last year’s finals. So, in a way before the competitive juices start flowing tonight, lets take a minute to thank the Spurs for essentially driving LeBron back to the Cavaliers and helping him realize that the better basketball situation for him was here in Cleveland.
Coming off of an awful loss to the Denver Nuggets at the Q on Monday, the Cavaliers look to bounce back with a win against the Spurs. The keys to this game are of course improvement on defense, and limiting offensive turnovers. Last game the Cavaliers had serious issues defending the pick and roll against the Nuggets and looked bad in all of their half court defensive sets. On Monday the Denver point guards took advantage of pick and roll situations to the fullest extent. The problems on defense end occurred when the defender covering the point guard became flat footed, the big then didn’t help control the pick, and the defenders on the outside left their men to help inside. This lack of pick and roll defense led to wide open shots and a ton of driving layups. The Cavaliers right now are one of the bottom five teams in the league in defensive efficiency and can’t afford to make a lot of mistakes on the defensive end of the floor against the fundamentally sound San Antonio Spurs if they want to win this game tonight.
On the offensive end of the floor, the Cavaliers need to get in a rhythm early to win this game. On Monday, the Cavs had 15 turnovers which led to 27 points on the other end by the Nuggets. The Cavs right now rank 4th in the league in points per game. The Cavs will need to make adjustments in their half court offense and not take bad shots, though. The Spurs this season are 3rd in points allowed per game and in the top five in defensive efficiency in the league. To win, the Cavs need to execute David Blatt’s offense and not make a lot of mistakes. As for the Spurs offensively, as we all know, they are a consistent fundamentally sound team that feeds off one another. Their chemistry on offense over the years is why they are the defending champs. This season, though, they are just 24th in points per game so we shall see how they look tonight on offense.
SF Kawhi Leonard vs. SF LeBron James: The Key Matchup. The Matchup Between Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James is my key matchup for many reasons. These are two of the top ten players in the NBA right now and this applies to both sides of the floor. LeBron James is averaging 27.1 points per game, 6.6 assists a game, and 6.7 rebounds a game; and Kawhi Leonard is averaging 12.9 points per game, 2.3 assists a game, and 7.7 rebounds a game. LeBron has been crazy good to start the season and Kawhi has been so-so, but Kawhi Leonard affects every possession in one way or another so his stats this season don’t depict his impact. If during the game tonight the offense for the Cavaliers gets stagnant, LeBron will have to take over. The question is, will Kawhi Leonard’s defensive prowess be able to stop LBJ and keep the Cavs at bay? Whoever wins the matchup on both sides of the ball will give his team the best chance to win.
Other interesting matchups include Kyrie Irving vs. Tony Parker, Tim Duncan vs. Kevin Love, and whoever plays the two guard vs. Manu and Danny Green. The Cavs have to stop dribble penetration from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and stop Tim Duncan in the post and be patient on the defensive and offensive ends. The San Antonio Spurs are the model of consistency in the NBA and the Cavaliers are a work in progress. As Cavaliers fans we want the Cavs to develop what the Spurs have developed over the past decade, and have consistency in Cleveland. I believe the Cavs will bounce back tonight and win this game 98-95 at home.