The Clippers just played their most exciting game of the year, and it would be natural to have an emotional letdown after facing one of the league’s top contenders. There’s no time to rest, however, as the Cavaliers await on the back-to-back. This will be the first time Ty Lue coaches against the Cleveland since being fired by the team at the start of the 2018 season.
Unlike previous years, this Cleveland team is no slouch. The Cavaliers have won nearly half of their games, including two contests against the Brooklyn team that just defeated the Clippers. They’re also more rested than LA, having played Monday at home. The conditions could be ripe for an upset.
When: Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 5:00 p.m. PT
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland, Ohio
How to watch/listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio
Opposing perspective: Fear the Sword
Projected Starting Lineups:
Clippers (16-6): Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Nicolas Batum, Serge Ibaka
Cavaliers (10-11): Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Taurean Prince, Jarrett Allen
Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Jay Scrubb — OUT
Cavaliers: Andre Drummond — QUESTIONABLE; Matthew Dellavedova, Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr. — OUT
Cleveland’s success this season has come on the defensive end of the floor. They force a ton of turnovers without fouling and have the seventh-best defensive rating in the league. The problem for Cleveland is that their best individual defender, Larry Nance Jr., won’t be playing Wednesday, and he likely would have drawn the primary assignment on Kawhi Leonard. In Nance’s stead, former Net Taurean Prince and rookie Isaac Okoro will have to guard the Clippers star wing duo.
Another issue for the Cavaliers is that they’re excellent at protecting the rim — centers Jarrett Allen, JaVale McGee, and Andre Drummond have all been quite good in the paint — but less so the perimeter, and the Clippers do well from 3-point range. LA will have to hope it doesn’t have tired legs on the second game in as many days.
Offensively, the Cavaliers are led by Collin Sexton, the third-year guard who has seen a remarkable uptick in offensive efficiency recently. Sexton is just the type of jitterbug scoring guard who gives the Clippers trouble (see: Irving, Kyrie). He’s shooting 43 percent on 3-pointers and 46 percent from midrange, so his pull-up game could be a problem for LA.
The Clippers might go deeper into their bench to avoid overtaxing their main rotation. Luke Kennard only four minutes Tuesday; an Ohio native, he might enjoy being back in his home state, if only a couple thousand fans are in attendance. The Clippers will also have to be careful with Nic Batum, who returned from a groin injury to play against the Nets, but played 38 minutes when he said he was supposed to be a on a 20-25 minutes restriction.
Even with the loss to Brooklyn, this has been a successful road trip, but losing two in a row before heading home would leave a sour taste in the team’s mouth. Hopefully, the Clippers regroup quickly and take care of business.