The Phoenix Suns are fresh off a heartbreaking loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday night and will look to bounce back again the thus far, underachieving Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavs got a present from above a couple years ago, on a fateful day in May the lottery ping-pong balls that bounced around that ultimately gave the Cavs one of the best young stars in the NBA today in Kyrie Irving.
Behind Irving last season the Cavs finished 21-45 and it seemed like the team was headed for a bright future with the addition of rookie Dion Waiters, and with the return of Anderson Varejao but that has not been the case 14 games into the 2012-2013 for Cleveland.
The last time the Cavs faced the Suns, the Cavs surrendered a 26-point lead that ultimately lost that game and I’m certain that, that blown game is still fresh on the minds of this young Cavs squad.
“Definitely (Cleveland will have that game in mind). Any time you lose to a team you want to get revenge,” Suns swingman Jared Dudley said. “… We know Kyrie Irving is gone (with a broken left index finger). We’ve got to put pressure on their guards. Any time we can get (rookie Dion) Waiters to slow down and keep (Anderson) Varejao off the boards, we have a good chance.”
The Cavs are on a 3 game losing streaking and they’ve lost 9 of their last 10 games. The Cavs will likely be without their best player and starting point guard Kyrie Irving tomorrow night as he’s out a bruised finger.
Neither team has anyone on the injured list(even though Irving is listed as out). Irving has missed the last 4 games and Jeremy Pargo has started in his place. The Suns are the favorite heading into tonight’s match-up as the Suns are the favorite according to ESPN.com by 2.5 points.
Keys to the game: Suns
– Attack the paint! The Cavs have little to none interior defense and the Suns need to take advantage of that by having guys like Luis Scola, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat just pound the ball inside.
– Abuse that Cleveland bench! In their last match-up the Suns bench outscored the Cleveland bench 47-26, the Cavs aren’t a deep team and they are even worse without Irving, the Suns must take advantage like they did in their last match-up.
– Don’t settle for jumpers. The Suns trailed the Cavs by as much as 26 points the last time these two teams played. Why? Because they took too much jumpers to begin the game and they weren’t making any! This Cleveland team are the 2nd worse team in league in terms of defense allowing opposing offenses to score 102.2 points per game on average, so why make it easier for them by jacking up 18-20 foot jumpers all game long?
Keys to the game: Cavaliers
– Be physical and aggressive. The Cavs simply lack offensive scoring options right now and with Irving out the only real offensive threat for the Cavs is Dion Waiters who despite his talents is inconsistent which means the Cavs have got to play that rough and tough game hoping that it will throw the Suns off their game.
– Second chance points. The Cavs have the best rebounder in the NBA today with Anderson Varejao who’s averaging over 14 rebounds per game and even if they had Irving, the Cavs pretty much need as much second chance opportunities as they can possibly get.
– Get Waiters going early. Waiters is a highly talented offensive player, rookie or not, if this kid gets hot he can carry you to a victory, but again he’s inconsistent. For example, after Waiter’s 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting performance against the Suns, in his next 3 games he scored 32 points on 10 of 38 shooting; that’s inconsistency on a platter! The Cavs have got to give this kid the rock early and see if he’s got the hot hand, if he does, look out.
– Trust issues. Alvin Gentry benched Marcin Gortat in their last game against the Sixers during the crucial 4th quarter despite the fact Gortat was having a fine game. Gentry also trusted Beasley to take the last shot of the game but earlier the season, during a several tight 4th quarter games, Beasley was playing the role of cheerleader. The Suns has played 5 games this season where the final results were decided by 3 points or less and also an overtime game against Chicago. The last 2 games the Suns played had been decided by 3 points or less so whoever Alvin Gentry decides to trust in the 4th quarter could play a factor should this be a tight game; oh yeah by the way, last game against Philadelphia I would’ve never sat Gortat for two reasons, one he was having a terrific game and two the more often he gets benched the more his trade value drops! Another issue that’s taking place is the effectiveness of Shannon Brown or rather lack of. Brown has averaged only 9 points in his last 5 contests and it seems he hasn’t had a heroic 4th quarter since he dropped 12 4th quarter points on the Cavs two weeks ago, so we’ll see if Brown can get back on track. Call it experimenting, call it an identity crisis, but at the end of the day it’s some type of trust issue.
Match-up of the night!
– It’s going to be the battle of the big boys tonight, Marcin Gortat vs. Anderson Varejao. It’s a pretty ironic match-up given that both of these guys are in very similar situations, both guys are on bargain contracts and both guys could be traded any day now! Picture Varejao as the Gortat of Cleveland if you will. If you ask me Gortat is a little better and it’ll be interesting to watch these two guys square off tomorrow night, because their performance from this point forward will impact where they’ll end up; many of the teams that are interested in Gortat are also the same teams that are interested in Varejao.