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Cavaliers at Clippers Preview: LeBron Comes to Town

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The Clippers will take on the newly refurbished Cleveland Cavaliers in this matchup of two big name teams. The Clippers are on a roll of late while the Cavs have struggled, but with the Cavaliers getting some pieces back from injury, they are more formidable than they have been all season.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

2014/2015 NBA Regular Season
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vs
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26-13

20-20
January 16, 2015,  7:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Espn, Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
11-7 East 15-9
15-6 West 5-11
17-6 Home 11-9
9-7 Road 9-11
8-10 .500+ 4-10
18-3 .500- 16-3
7-3 L10 2-8
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Kyrie Irving
JJ Redick SG JR Smith
Matt Barnes SF LeBron James
Blake Griffin PF Kevin Love
DeAndre Jordan C Timofey Mozgov
Advanced Stats
96.3 (14th of 30) Pace 94.5 (25th of 30)
110.0 (3rd of 30) ORtg 104.8 (11th of 30)
103.3 (16th of 30) DRtg 96.3 (26th of 30)
Injuries/Other
Austin Rivers (recently traded, questionable)
Iman Shumpert (shoulder, out)


Anderson Varejao (achilles, out)



The Back Story (The Series was split last year 1-1):

Date


Venue


Final


12/07/2013


Cleveland


Cavs 88, Clippers 82 Recap

Box

3/16/2014


Los Angeles


Clippers 102, Cavs 80


RecapBox

The Big Picture:

After a half season of beating up on lower quality opponents and losing to good teams, the Clippers finally have a couple solid wins under their belt with the defeat of the Mavericks over the weekend and a takedown of the Trailblazers in Portland Wednesday night. The bench remains an issue, especially as Spencer Hawes continues to struggle. However, help (however small) is on the way with Dahntay Jones signed to a 10 day deal and Reggie Bullock shipped out for Austin Rivers. Jones can hopefully supply some much needed perimeter defense, while Rivers might be able to provide a scoring spark off the bench, complementing the struggling Jordan Farmar.

The Antagonist:

The Cavaliers have hugely underachieved this season, and as is inevitable with any LeBron team, they have dealt with a ton of media pressure and criticism. In this case, however, much of it seems warranted. Picked by many NBA fans to win the Eastern Conference and perhaps even the Finals with the additions of Kevin Love and LeBron, the Cavaliers find themselves at .500 even in the weaker East. Love has been as awful as expected on defense, and has been even more exposed on a Cleveland roster lacking a rim protector for much of the season. LeBron has been injured, and while he has played well, his play is nowhere near the level it was a couple years ago: he is no longer the best player in the NBA. Meanwhile, Coach David Blatt has come under fire for the teams' poor play, and it is possible he is fired in the next few games if the squad doesn't turn things around. The Cavs recently made a couple moves to shake up their roster, sending Dion Waiters to the Thunder, and picking up Iman Shumpert, Jr Smith, and Timofey Mozgov. Shumpert is out, but the others have already made positive contributions so far. With LeBron back, this team is still dangerous.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Clippers remain terrific offensively, and rank 3rd in efficiency among all NBA teams. Despite having 3 All Stars the Cavaliers are only 11th in offense, but that is the least of their problems. The Clippers are merely middling on defense and in pace, but the Cavaliers are in the bottom 5 in both categories, partially because Varejao went down and LeBron and Shawn Marion have been injured, but also due to the presence of Kyrie and Love. Nonetheless, it is a bit of a puzzle why they play so slowly.
  • The schedule. This is the Clippers 2nd game in a row on ESPN. With any luck, this game will be just as exciting (and have as nice a result) as the Blazers game on Friday. After tonight, the Clippers get three gimme games against Sacramento, Boston, and Brooklyn. Sacramento is in a funk, Boston is trading away its useful players, and Brooklyn is the definition of mediocre. After playing in LA, the Cavs return home for 4 games, but could lose all of them against the Bulls, Jazz, Thunder, and Hornets.
  • The Cavaliers Defense. It is really, really bad. LeBron has lost a step (and a half) on defense, and has taken plays off going back to last year. He isn't on James Harden levels yet, but backdoor cuts and the like should be a good option against him. Their next best perimeter defender is a washed up Shawn Marion, who looks noticeably older this season. Meanwhile, Irving and Love are both turnstiles on defense, as is new acquisition Jr Smith. The Clippers should be able to get what they want all night long, though Mozgov adds a decent presence at the hoop.
  • Top Power Forwards Clash: Blake Griffin and Kevin Love have been two of the best power forwards in the league for several years now, and their battles are always fun. Both have seen a bit of a fall off this season, with Griffin's rebounding numbers continuing their decline and Love's overall production going down substantially due to becoming the 3rd option. Neither is really in the conversation of best power forward anymore either, since Anthony Davis has a death lock on that position. Nonetheless, they don't seem to particularly like each other, and hopefully Griffin goes all out against Love.
  • Bench Reinforcements: As mentioned above, Dahntay Jones and Austin Rivers were recently added to the roster while Reggie Bullock is now in Phoenix and Chris Douglas Roberts is in Boston. Jones is a longtime veteran known as a good defender, but at 34 is unlikely to be a revelation on that end. He can also hit 3 pointers, but he is inconsistent and can't do much else with the ball. Austin Rivers was the 10th pick in a stacked 2012 draft class despite the warnings of many draftniks (myself included), and has proven to be every bit as bad as I thought he would be. The worst things that can be mentioned as important qualities in a prospect are intangibles like "swagger" or "background". Those might be helpful, but skills are needed too, and Rivers' involves using fancy dribble moves that don't really get him anywhere. It is possible the teaching of Doc, as well as CP3 and Jamal (who is his ultimate best case scenario) helps him get better, but his numbers aren't pretty.
  • Kyrie Irving: In my opinion, Kyrie Irving is one of the most overrated players in the NBA. Yes, he can get super hot and fill up the basket like few others, but he contributes almost nothing else to an NBA team, and his scoring efficiency is not great. He can make nice passes, but does not consistently make teammates better, and his defense is quite lacking. In a list of top PGs in the NBA, I would have CP3, Curry, Wall, Parker, Lowry, Lillard, Conley, Westbrook, and Teague above him for sure, with guys like Rose, Lawson, and Dragic all around his level as well.
  • Connections. One of Blake Griffin's most famous dunks came early in his career against Mozgov when he was on the Knicks. Spencer Hawes was on the Cavs for about 30 games last season before leaving in free agency to join the Clippers. Dahntay Jones played with JR Smith for one season on the Nuggets in 2008. Smith also played with CP3 in his rookie year on the Hornets in 2005. Tyronn Lue was an assistant coach for the Clippers last season and is now the associate head coach of the Cavaliers, the highest paid assistant coach in the NBA.
  • Wikipedia entry: Cavalier Chocolate is a Belgian manufacturer founded in 1996 which produces only no-suger-added chocolate products. It is the only Belgian chocolate manufacturer which does this. The logo refers to the adventure associated with cocoa as well as the name of the father in law of the founder.

Morning Edits: The Cavaliers beat the Lakers last night behind a big game from LeBron. Meanwhile, it looks like the Clippers have bought out Jordan Farmar, meaning Austin Rivers is the sole backup at point guard for the moment.