The Cleveland Cavaliers (10-16, 10th in the East) will welcome Kyrie Irving back to the lineup Wednesday when they take on the reeling Indiana Pacers (17-11, 6th in the East).
The Pacers come in on a 4 game losing streak, the last loss coming in a complete annihilation at the hands of the Miami Heat, a game in which the Pacers lost Danny Granger to injury. So yeah, they come into Cleveland licking their wounds and looking for a bounce back win.
For Kyrie Irving, this is a shot at redemption, going against the very team which he missed his potential game winning layup. That was our first glimpse of what Irving could be, now he comes into this game a more fully realized version of himself. The question for the Cavalier coaches (and fans) is just how well can Kyrie hold up coming off the scary concussion injury.
The Cavaliers will be without Anderson Varejao and Anthony Parker again. Daniel Gibson will likely get the nod at SG while, I don’t know, probably Semih Erden will get the starting nod at center again (maybe?). Without Varejao to match up with all the size Indiana has, this game is going to be a tough one for the Cavaliers to win.
The Cavaliers will need either one of the random breakout games from either Erden or Samardo Samuels (or I suppose even Ryan Hollins), or else Tristan Thompson is going to have to log serious minutes playing double duty backup PF and C. Between Roy Hibbert, David West, Tyler Hansbrough, and Jeff Foster (if he’s healthy enough to play), the Pacers have so much size and so many different types of big guys. The have a variety of ways to hurt you in the pain and without Varejao, the Cavaliers will be vulnerable.
If Granger is unable to play (a game time decision), it will be a huge boost to the Cavaliers. Either way, the Cavaliers must push the tempo a little more than usual in this matchup. Not that Indiana isn’t capable of playing at a high pace, but playing that way always helps neutralize the bigs a little bit. If the Cavaliers can get out and run, it will minimize the net loss of their frontcourt in this matchup. Indiana is a decent team at playing in the open court, but in the half court game, they will dominate the Cavaliers on the glass and 2nd chance opportunities and the Cavaliers just won’t have an answer for it.
It will be interesting, too, to see how Irving runs the offense without his partner in the pick and roll game. This game will be an opportunity to Irving to create more in isolation without Varejao around. I think it’s a part of his game Irving has been hesitant to show off save for 4th quarters when the Cavs needed it. Well, the Cavs will need it from tip off in this game. The Cavaliers are coming off 4 days rest and a renewed spirit with Kyrie Irving coming back. It would be a shame to lose to a team with a limp like Indiana right now. But lets face it, Indiana is a much better team than the Cavaliers. Without Varejao, the matchups tip heavily in Indiana’s favor, with or without Danny Granger. If the Cavaliers win this game, it will be a nice display of will and confidence.