The Cleveland Cavaliers (2-2) will have a chance to keep their positive momentum going Tuesday night at 7:00 pm when they host the struggling Charlotte Bobcats (1-3).
So far this early season the Cavaliers have developed a bit of a trend. When they are hitting their 3s, they win. When they’re not, they lose. This can be a problematic trend as teams that live and die with the three point shot tend to do a lot of dying. In the NBA, it’s tough to rely on that shot consistently night in and night out. This is all part of the team’s growing process as they must develop ways to score and win games besides just launching threes.
Having said that, though, the matchup with the Bobcats could allow the Cavaliers opportunities to continue their hot shooting from outside. The Bobcats are currently giving up the 4th highest opponents’ 3P% in the NBA.
The Cavaliers don’t have to rely solely on their outside shot, though. Charlotte is also 28th in the NBA in opponents’ points in the paint. One of the places the Cavaliers have improved the most this season is in scoring in the paint. In fact, they are scoring the 4th most points in the paint per game in the NBA this year. Rather than relying on fast break dunks for scoring in the paint, the Cavaliers have actually been finding inside scoring in the flow of their offense. The Cavaliers have been attacking the lane frequently from the point, drawing fouls, and making defenses have to decide whether to cut off the driving guard or defend the post player. It’s an offensive effectiveness that was sorely missing last season.
The Bobcats don’t just struggle on defense. They also have not found consistent scoring. With Tyrus Thomas injured, DJ White has been stepping up in his place. White scored 21 points in a loss against the Heat, but Bobcats coach Paul Silas has said that Thomas’ playing time isn’t guaranteed upon return, insisting White has shown enough to warrant the playing time right now. Thomas could be back against the Cavaliers, so it will be interesting to see how the playing time shakes out. A matchup of Thomas vs Cavaliers rookie PF Tristan Thompson could be a blast to watch as they are two of the most athletic players at PF in the NBA.
The Bobcats leading scorers are DJ Augustin and Gerald Henderson, but rookie Kemba Walker has shown some promise. Still a work in progress, Walker hasn’t found his consistency yet, but has shown an ability to score points in rapid fire bursts. The other rookie PG in this game, Kyrie Irving, will likely be working against DJ Augustin more so than Walker, but you can bet people will be watching the two and comparing their stats. They are very different PGs, of course, but both should be playing PG in this league for a long time and will frequently draw comparisons to one another.
For Irving, the focus should continue to be his playmaking ability. The Cavaliers don’t need him to be the primary point scorer right now, as that will come with time. But Irving has shown an increasing comfort in this offense in every game this year, and hopefully that will continue against the Bobcats. His defense has also gotten better with time, but still has further to go than his offense. The shifty Augustin will once again prove a challenge for the rookie PG.
The Cavaliers will bring their same starting lineup tonight with Kyrie Irving, Anthony Parker, Omri Casspi, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao, with a 2nd unit of Ramon Sessions, Daniel Gibson, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, and Samardo Samuels. Center Semih Erden has been cleared to return to practice, but Coach Scott has said not to expect to see Erden until he’s had some practices under his belt. After that, expect to see a battle with Samuels for playing time as the backup center on this team.
The Bobcats and former Cavalier coach Paul Silas feature a starting lineup of DJ Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Corey Maggette, DJ White, and Boris Diaw. If healthy, Tyrus Thomas will get minutes as will rookies Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo. Former Cavalier DeSagana Diop might see some time as well, and Derrick Brown has been decent off the bench as well. But one of the bigger surprises for the Bobcats has been the scoring of former Ohio State center Byron (don’t call me BJ) Mullens. Playing just over 15 minutes per game, Mullens has been given his shot to play and is making the most of it, averaging 8.5 points per game. Mullens is 3rd on the Bobcats in scoring per 36 minutes.
The Bobcats may not be playing well on either side of the ball right now, but one thing they are very, very good at is rebounding. They are a strong offensive rebounding team and the Cavaliers have not been a very good defensive rebounding team. So 2nd chance points will be a stat to watch tonight. The Bobcats’ ability to control possession and make the most on missed shots will be key to their game.
For the Cavaliers, the key will be to see how the team responds in a home game in which they are not only favored, but likely expected to win. There won’t be many games this year in which the Cavaliers should feel like they should win if they play their game, but this might be one of them. As always, though, with the Cavaliers the most important aspect of the game to watch is development. Let the wins and losses take care of themselves, but playing quality basketball is what matters most to the general improvement and development of this team.