***UPDATE: Daniel Gibson will play and will start tonight against the Clippers. So kindly disregard comments below about Gibson likely not playing.
***UPDATE #2: Kyrie Irving has concussion like symptoms and will not play tonight. Great. Just great.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (9-14, 10th in the East) begin their longest home stand of the season Wednesday night as the new Los Angeles Clippers (15-7, 2nd in the West) visit The Q.
This is certainly a matchup that is not lacking for storylines. Chris Paul playing his old coach and mentor, Byron Scott. Kyrie Irving vs one of the players he seems to be compared to a lot in Chris Paul. Mo Williams making his return to Cleveland.
Beyond the storylines, though, I expect a rough night for the Cavaliers. The Clippers, though on the 3rd game of a road trip, are well rested having had the previous night off. The Cavaliers played shorthanded in Miami last night, ran up and down the court at a frantic pace for much of the game, and then had to fly back home.
Anthony Parker and Tristan Thompson are both likely to miss the game, and though Daniel Gibson is listed as questionable as of this writing, I don’t think we’ll see him play in this one. This means the Cavaliers will once again go with Kyrie Irving, Alonzo Gee, Omri Casspi, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao in the starting lineup. This means the bench rotation will again feature a bunch of players that Cavs fans wish they didn’t have to see playing together again.
The Clippers’ starting lineup features Chris Paul, Randy Foye, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. By now everyone knows that Chauncey Billups is out for the season. This leaves the Clippers’ bench with Mo Williams, Ryan Gomes, Reggie Evans, Eric Bledsoe, and Solomon Jones.
For the Clippers, Mo Williams has been on fire lately, averaging 16.7 points in 28.2 minutes per game over his last 10 games. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Caron Butler are all doing what they do this season. DeAndre Jordan has been playing solid defense this season, as he leads all Clippers in defensive efficiency rating, is tied with Blake Griffin in defensive win shares, and leads the Clippers in blocked shots. A guy who often had the reputation for being a lazy defender, Jordan seems to really be focused on that end this year.
The Clippers are a really good team, Griffin is a matchup nightmare for Jamison, Kyrie will have his hands full with CP3, and with the Cavaliers playing the 2nd night of a back to back, this one has blowout written all over it.
But if there’s one thing the Cavaliers have taught us so far, it’s that it’s foolish to write them off. The Cavaliers will almost certainly get off to a slow start, as teams playing back-to-backs so frequently do, but Byron Scott has done a great job this year using his timeouts and getting through to his team. The Clippers are not a great defensive team and if the Cavaliers are executing their offense, they can hang in this game.
What I’m hoping for more than anything, though, is a CP3 vs Kyrie Irving showdown in the 4th quarter with the game’s outcome hanging in the balance. I felt like Irving’s performance against Steve Nash sort of put Kyrie on the map a bit, and if Irving can hold his own with CP3, he will go even further in establishing his presence in the NBA.
Finally, I just want to end with a personal note. I want to welcome Mo Williams back to Cleveland. I understand why Mo isn’t popular with many fans, but I appreciate everything he gave to this franchise. I always loved Mo’s confidence, his desire, and the heart he played with. Yes, he struggled in the playoffs, but not for a lack of focus or want to. In my mind, Mo will always be an important part of the 2 most fun Cavalier teams of my life. I’m happy the Cavs got Kyrie Irving by trading Mo, and I’m happy to see Mo finding success in Los Angeles.