Indiana Pacers (1-2) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (3-2)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Friday, November 7, 2008
7:30 PM EST
Tonight the Cleveland Cavaliers will look to continue their impressive play against a potentially good divisional opponent in the Indiana Pacers. After dropping 2 of their first 3, the Cavaliers have now won 2 straight and will be going for 3 in a row at the Q. The Cavaliers swept all four games against the Pacers last season, and have actually won seven straight against the Pacers overall, but this has a chance to be a much improved Pacers team this year. They’ll face a good test of their progress tonight in Cleveland.
Right now the Cavaliers are playing the best basketball we have seen in the city of Cleveland since the days of Mark Price. The Cavaliers’ defense has been insane so far. The Cavs are 5th in the NBA in opponenets’ FG% and 7th in opponents’ points per game. They are 7th in rebounding and 3rd in opponents’ rebounding. Their offense has been outstanding as well, for the most part. They are 10th in FG%, 15th in 3P%, 8th in Adjusted FG%, and 6th in Points per Shot.
Against the Pacers, the key for the Cavalier offense will be twofold, ball movement and focus. The Pacers give up a lot of points, but a big reason for that is their pace factor. The Pacers play at the 4th highest pace in the NBA, meaning there are a lot of possessions and opportunities for points when the Pacers are dictating the pace, and therefore there tends to be more scoring. But if you look at their efficiency, they actually rank in the top 10 in the NBA, just one spot behind the Cavaliers. Outside of TJ Ford, this is a team with a lot of size and height that can disrupt teams. This is why the Cavs must make sure they are swinging the ball and moving well without it to create more open space for players. When playing a team with a lot of height like the Pacers, if your movement isn’t sharp, they can take up a lot of space and force a team to just shoot a bunch of outside jumpers on them. This will be the Cavaliers challenge in this game. Furthermore, the Cavaliers need to focus. They are not used to playing from ahead, and it shows in how they tend to keep letting teams back in games. This is the NBA, and everyone goes on runs in the NBA, but the Cavaliers have higher aspirations. If they want to establish themselves as one of the 2 or 3 teams to beat in the East, they need to keep their foot on the gas at all times.
On defense, the Cavaliers might have their hands full. Danny Granger is having a breakout season so far at 25.8 points per game. He’s quick, lean, and athletic. He’s able to slash to the basket at times, but he also is proving to be a pretty deadly shooter this year, hitting 48% of his shots from the field and shooting 37.5% from three. Then you have Troy Murphy, a 6’11” power forward who likes to stand outside the 3-point line, draw bigger defenders outside, and then beat them going to the basket. If the bigger defenders sag into the lane, though, Granger isn’t afraid to shoot. He shot 236 threes last year (hitting 39.8% of them), and this year through just 3 games he’s already shot 16 of them (hitting on 50%). This is going to be a challenging matchup for Ben Wallace, as it will take him out of his comfort zone. TJ Ford is the catalyst for this team on offense, and his up-tempo style has really suited the Pacers offense well. He’s also been more assertive in getting his own shots off this year, and he’s averaging a career high 17.3 points per game. This game will be a challenge for the Cavaliers defense, as they must figure out ways to get back in transition and stop this unconventional offense the Pacers run. If the Cavaliers can dictate the pace of this one, it will go a long way in ensuring victory for the home team tonight.