Minnesota Timberwolves (12-44) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (32-26)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Friday, February 29, 2008
7:30 PM EST
Minnesota, Chicago, New York, Chicago, Indiana, Portland, New Jersey, Washington. Tonight begins a stretch of very winnable games for the Cavaliers. Coming off back to back bad losses (I know, Boston is a better team right now….what I mean is that the team played horrible down the stretch in that game), now is the time for the Cavaliers to make their push. The grace period is over. It has to be. Not that the new guys don’t deserve more time to get things figured out….they do. The problem is, the Cavaliers don’t have that kind of time to spare. Nobody wants to see this team go into the playoffs as a 4 or 5 seed, especially not the 5 seed. If the Cavaliers want any chance of trying to catch Orlando for the #3 seed, they need to take care of business over the next 2 weeks, beginning tonight against the rebuilding Timberwolves.
Projected Staring Lineups
-G Sebastian Telfair (9.5 ppg, 6.0 apg, 1.1 spg, 10.86 PER)
-G Randy Foye (10.3 ppg, 2.4 apg, 0.7 spg, 9.11 PER)
-F Corey Brewer (5.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.4 apg, 6.96 PER)
-F Ryan Gomes (11.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 15.01 PER)
-C Al Jefferson (21.4 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 23.60 PER)
Key Injuries: None
-G Delonte West (7.1 ppg, 3.4 apg, .333 3-pt%, 10.18 PER)
-G Devin Brown (6.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 10.86 PER)
-F LeBron James (30.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 7.4 apg, 30.00 PER)
-F Ben Wallace (5.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 12.08 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (13.5 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 18.70 PER)
Key Injuries: Sasha Pavlovic (Out), Daniel Gibson (Out), LeBron James (Day-to-Day)
Team Efficiency Stats
-Off (93.5 ppg, 41.9 rpg, .441 FG%, .724 FT%, 19.3 apg, Efficiency-98.2, Rank-29)
-Def (100.8 ppg, 41.8 rpg, .464 FG%, Efficiency-107.2, Rank-27)
-Off (97.2 ppg, 44.2 rpg, .440 FG%, .721 FT%, 19.6 apg, Efficiency-102.8, Rank-17)
-Def (98.1 ppg, 40.8 rpg, .459 FG%, Efficiency-103.9, Rank-15)
Doing previews of these kinds of games is always difficult. It’s hard to know what exactly to say because, in all reality, there is absolutely no way the Cavaliers should lose this game. Minnesota is a team that is in the midst of the first major rebuilding phase of its life , beginning with the trading of the face of their franchise this off season, Kevin Garnett. The Wolves are a tiny team. Their frontcourt could really use some size, and Cleveland’s frontcourt should be able to have their way with them. The brightest spot for Minnesota is in the prize of their trade with Boston……Al Jefferson. Jefferson is a fanstastic young player, and he is putting up some absolutely huge numbers this season while flying under the radar in Minnesota. His quickness and athleticism could give Z some problems, although Z’s height will be a nice advantage over the 6-10 center. If Z can’t keep up with Jefferson, look for the Cavs to use AV on him, which could lead to extended minutes for Joe Smith if Mike Brown starts playing them in tandems.
After playing some very sloppy games so far with the new lineup, I look for the Cavaliers to start working on the small things to build cohesion. They need to begin with taking better control of the basketball. Despite seeing a nice increase in assists so far, the alarming issue is the subsequent increase in turnovers and points off the break. This team desperately needs to work on doing a better job getting back on defense in transition. For the 2nd game in a row, Wally Szczerbiak will be facing a former team. He will need to do a better job getting back at his former team than he did last time in Boston. Wally’s shot has been nowhere to be seen since joining Cleveland. He needs to get it figured out and get his head back on straight. His body language these last few games has been horrible and at times it seems like he’s sucking the energy right out of the lineup.
These are all issues that need to be fixed. Can the team get them fixed overnight? Probably not. But that will be the challenge for Mike Brown and staff. He needs to figure out how to get these new guys playing better, as well as figuring out which lineups work best. The time for trying things out is growing thin, and now is the time the Cavaliers need to take off an absolute tear. We’re entering the home stretch on this 2007-08 NBA season, and unless we start seeing some results from this trade soon, it’s looking like it could be a very rough playoff season for the defending Eastern Conference Champs.
From The Outside Looking In