Merry Christmas everybody! You know, as we spend this most festive of days with our families and friends and loved ones, the furthest thing from our mind is sports. But as the day grows late, the food starts getting cold, people start getting tired, and the parties start winding down, I can think of no finer way of closing out an evening than watching the Cavaliers play basketball. Christmas is all about spreading joy, and I’ll be perfectly honest with you….few things give me as much joy these days as watching this team play. I’m sure when the schedule was made this was supposed to be a prime game. The Cavaliers taking on their “rivals” on Christmas night. Instead, this game looks like a dud. But the Wizards will not be in a festive mood. They’ve won only 4 games, they’re on the road (in Cleveland, none the less), and they have to spend Christmas away from their homes and their extended families. For the Wizards, the best way to salvage their Christmas would be to beat the Cavaliers, the team they love to hate so much.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Mike James (6.4 ppg, 1.7 apg, 0.7 spg, 10.09 PER)
-G Caron Butler (21.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 20.89 PER)
-F Dominic McGuire (1.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.6 bpg, 9.97 PER)
-F Antawn Jamison (19.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 0.5 bpg, 20.06 PER)
-C Andray Blatche (9.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 15.09 PER)
Key Injuries: Gilbert Arenas (out), Brendan Haywood (out)
-G Mo Williams (15.8 ppg, 4.1 apg, 0.8 spg, 16.90 PER)
-G Delonte West (12.1 ppg, 2.5 apg, .387 3P%, 15.30 PER)
-F LeBron James (27.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 6.3 apg, 33.27 PER)
-F Ben Wallace (2.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 12.85 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (14.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 22.70 PER)
Key Injuries: Eric Snow (out)
Team Efficiency Stats
-Off (95.5 ppg, 40.0 rpg, .440 FG%, .757 FT%, 20.1 apg, Eff-101.5, Rank-22)
-Def (102.5 ppg, 42.8 rpg, .479 FG%, Eff-109.8, Rank-29)
-Off (102.3 ppg, 42.1 rpg, .481 FG%, .778 FT%, 20.8 apg, Eff-111.4, Rank-1)
-Def (89.3 ppg, 37.1 rpg, .421 FG%, Eff-96.4, Rank-2)
This is yet another one of those “on paper” games. There’s not a single thing the Wizards do better than the Cavaliers, and the Wizards are just about the worst defensive team in the NBA. The Cavaliers and their top ranked offense in efficiency should be able to cruise to a victory in this one. But with the way the Wizards hate the Cavaliers, combined with the relative indifference the Cavaliers feel toward the Wizards, this could be one of those trap games. I can easily see the Cavaliers being lethargic after spending the whole day relaxing and celebrating with their families. Meanwhile, the Wizards will be pent up in a hotel room all day, doing nothing but thinking about beating the Cavaliers. It will be interesting to see if the Cavaliers can come into this game with the same level of focus and intensity they’ve had all season long.
In many ways, it’s curious how a team with 2 players as good as Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison can have only 4 wins in their first 26 games. The Wizards come in having lost 7 straight and 10 of their last 11 games. They’ve already had 3 losing streaks of 5+ games. The Wizards have yet to win back to back games. This season has just been a tragic disaster for them. The biggest culprit for their woes is not injuries or anything else but a complete lack of defense. When you have players as good as Butler and Jamison, you should be able to string together some wins. The supporting cast on this team isn’t that bad. It’s unreal how porous the Washington defense has been. The Wizards don’t rebound, and they let teams shoot 48% from the field against them. You’re just not going to win many games playing that kind of defense.
There aren’t a lot of keys for this game. The Cavaliers’ focus will be the biggest concern. They are coming off a tough, close, emotional victory over Houston on Tuesday, and in the past, the Cavaliers have had huge letdown games after tough, emotionally draining games. This year, however, LeBron has not let this happen. He has come into every single game with extreme focus and intensity, and the rest of the Cavaliers have been following his lead. I’d expect to see more of the same in this game tonight. Hopefully the Cavaliers will give us all a nice Christmas present in the form of a Christmas Evening victory.
From The Outside Looking In
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Miami Heat at Cleveland Cavaliers
Sunday, December 28, 2008
7:00 PM EST