This game will be an interesting test for the Cavaliers. For the 2nd night in a row, they will take on a disappointing team from the Atlantic Division who is failing to live up to expectations after making an offseason move believed to be the key to pushing them into contention. The Sixers, despite not playing well at all so far this season, will be well rested having not played since Saturday at home against New Jersey. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, will be playing a road game on the 2nd night of back-to-back games, and last night’s game was an especially emotional game. The good news is, as usual, the Cavaliers starters got to rest the 4th quarter and fatigue shouldn’t be too much of an issue in this game.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Mo Williams (15.1 ppg, 4.4 apg, 0.9 spg, 16.13 PER)
-G Delonte West (11.1 ppg, 3.3 apg, .411 3P%, 14.48 PER)
-F LeBron James (26.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 6.3 apg, 32.96 PER)
-F Ben Wallace (2.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 14.19 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (15.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 24.23 PER)
Key Injuries: Daniel Gibson (Out), Eric Snow (Out)
-G Andre Miller (15.5 ppg, 5.6 apg, 1.2 spg, 17.41 PER)
-G Andre Iguodala (14.2 ppg, 5.1 apg, .255 3P%, 14.88 PER)
-F Thaddeus Young (13.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 13.57 PER)
-F Elton Brand (16.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 17.72 PER)
-C Samuel Dalembert (6.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 11.21 PER)
Key Injuries: Jason Smith (Out)
Team Efficiency Stats
-Off (104.0 ppg, 42.9 rpg, .483 FG%, .778 FT%, 21.3 apg, Efficiency-112.2, Rank-1)
-Def (90.4 ppg, 37.0 rpg, .417 FG%, Efficiency-96.7, Rank-2)
-Off (94.3 ppg, 45.4 rpg, .434 FG%, .744 FT%, 19.8 apg, Efficiency-98.6, Rank-28)
-Def (95.1 ppg, 40.5 rpg, .457 FG%, Efficiency-101.2, Rank-7)
First things first, Daniel Gibson is going to be out for about 2 weeks with his sprained toe. This isn’t great news for the Cavaliers at all, as Daniel was just starting to find his stroke. But, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Daniel so far in his career, it’s that he’s constantly bothered by minor, nagging injuries, so this isn’t totally unexpected. He’ll be back soon enough, though, and the Cavaliers will probably rely on Delonte West to play more minutes and we may see more of Sasha Pavlovic as well, and possibly even more of Wally at the 2. The great thing about this Cavaliers team is that their backcourt is deep enough this year that they can handle a minor injury like this and rotate guys around enough to make it work.
The 76ers are not a very good offensive team at all, but they rebound well and play tough defense….hallmarks of Cavaliers team in the past. In many ways, this Sixers team reminds me so much of the Cavaliers of the past couple years. One or two really good players, and then a bunch of role players who play hard and defend well, but aren’t great offensive threats. The Sixers are 3rd in the NBA in Rebound Rate (the percentage of missed shots that a team rebounds), but the Cavaliers are first in the NBA in that category, so the boards are going to be a great battle to watch, and the team who can beat the other to rebounds will have a nice advantage in this game. That could be where the Sixers extra rest may come in handy for them. If they can establish that they are the hungrier team with more energy and hustle for rebounds and loose balls, this one’s going to be tough for the Cavaliers.
As we hvae seen from this Cavaliers team, though, when they put their foot on the pedal, it’s a marvel to behold. Teams can be hanging around with the Cavaliers for the longest time, but as soon as the Cavaliers get any kind of spark whatsoever, it’s like the go on a 18-2 type run and push their lead up over 20 points in the blink of an eye. The Cavaliers are 17-1 in their last 18 games, and have won 9 straight by 12+ points. They’ve won 4 straight by 20 or more points. If they can somehow win tonight by 20 or more, they will tie yet another NBA record. Rather than worrying about winning by 12 points, let alone 20, you would hope instead the focus would just be on getting their 10th win in a row no matter what the margin.
Anytime you are playing a game where fatigue can set in, though, it becomes more important than ever that you take care of the ball. After racking up 29 assists in last night’s game, assist-to-turnover ratio will be the key number to watch for the Cavaliers in this game. If they can have 24 or more assists and keep the turnovers under 15, they will have a good chance to win this game just based on the efficiency of their offense and especially their defense alone. If they are tired and giving away turnovers, especially with a Philly team that can put some very athletic lineups on the floor who don’t mind running a bit every now and then, then this game will be a tough matchup.
In the preseason, I worried a bit about the size of the Sixers creating a matchup problem for the Cavaliers. With the resurgence of Ben Wallace and Big Z, though, I’m not as concerned about it as I once was. Instead, I worry a bit about the quick athleticism of some of the Sixers guards and forwards causing the Cavaliers to find themselves in some foul trouble in the back court. If that happens, that’s when they will feel the loss of Daniel Gibson. Hopefully West and Williams can keep their guys in front of them without fouling too much. Sometimes when you are tired and playing the tail end of a back-to-back, you can see guys resorting to fouling rather than playing sound defense. The Cavaliers must not allow that to become an issue tonight.
Overall, this was one of the matchups I had circled on my preseason outlook schedule as a premeire game for the Cavaliers to find out how they stack up with the much improved media darling 76ers. Well, so far things haven’t worked out in Philly quite like they had hoped, while the Cavaliers are exceeding all expectations. But much like the Raptors team the Cavaliers faced last night, you can’t be fooled by record alone. The Sixers have some great players on their rosters, and they are more than capable of giving Cleveland all they can handle.
From The Outside Looking In
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers at Cleveland Cavaliers
Friday, December 12, 2008
7:30 PM EST