Cleveland Cavaliers Game Previews: November 14 - November 20

Cleveland Cavaliers game previews from Nov. 14 to Nov. 20, including games against the Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers wrapped up their third week of the season strongly with wins against the Wizards and the surprisingly good Charlotte Hornets. Problem? They lost to the Atlanta Hawks in a close game because they couldn't consistently hit shots from downtown. 

If one thing can be said about the Cavaliers, on offense anyway, it's that at times their stagnation on the offensive end of the floor causes them to suffer long scoring droughts which put them in a hole both against the Hawks and the Wizards. At times, their offense is beautiful: ball flowing from player to player, never stationary for too long, finding an open man. At other times, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving will hold the ball for 5-8 seconds at a time, not much motion in the offense, nobody moving, nobody cutting. Pure stagnation. This leads to poor shots being taken and can lead to easily defensible passing lanes for the defense. This is the largest issue for Cleveland this season. 

Another large issue that the Cavaliers are experiencing early in the 2016-2017 season is the fact that they seem to be taking it easy on the defensive end of the floor. They allowed John Wall to score 23 in the first half of their game on Veterans Day, and they gave up 54 first half points to the Hornets today. But on both occasions, they turned up the defense in the second half, holding Wall to 5 points in the second half and holding the Hornets to 39 second half points. Now, it would be easy to be myopic and say that, 'it's been working so far for the Cavaliers, why worry it if they're winning?' The way they are winning is not guaranteed to be sustainable. They need to play with more consistent effort on the defensive end of the floor to avoid getting in these, 'down 11, we need to claw back some ground and play rabid defense' situations.

Toronto Raptors

Tuesday, 15 November 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Home

Stop No. 10. Do not let DeRozan beat you, make it so that his teammates have to beat you.

Last time these two teams matched up, DeRozan had 32 on 12-28 shooting as the Cavaliers beat the Raptors in a close game, 94-91. The Cavaliers and the Raptors have each only lost once since that game in late October, with the Cavaliers and Raptors pacing the Eastern Conference. This will be a big game for both teams as each look not to lose ground to the other. 

The last time the Raptors were in Quicken Loans Arena they were run out of the gym, losing to the Cavaliers 113-87 in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals.  The Cavaliers will look to capture some of that same magic as they face the Raptors on the first night of a back-to-back.

One thing to watch for in the game is whether or not the Cavaliers look to feed Kevin Love early. The Cavalier power forward had 15 in the first quarter against the Hornets, but rarely went back to him for the rest of the game, ending with 17. He was a victim of the machine that was Channing Frye in the late second half against Charlotte, not seeing the floor for any meaningful minutes in the last 15 minutes of the half. It will be interesting to see, if Love again gets on a role early against the Raptors, if they stick with him, or if they allow the players who get hot later to remain on the floor.

Indiana Pacers

Wednesday, 16 November 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Away

So much for the "great" offseason for the Indiana Pacers.

Yes, it is still early. Yes, it's time to panic.

 The fundamental problem with the Indiana Pacers is something that the Cavaliers will look to abuse Wednesday Night in Indianapolis: poor defense.

The Indiana Pacers, through 10 games this season, have the second worst defensive rating in the league, allowing teams to score 108.3 points per 100 possessions. What's the problem? They only score 103.6 per 100 possessions. Cleveland comes into the game with a top ten defensive rating and the second best offensive rating in the league. This could prove to be an issue for the Pacers.

How did things get so bad for the once vaunted Pacers defense? They swapped out Frank Vogel, a noted defensive coach, for Nate McMillan, a coach noted for not being defensive minded. They also swapped out Roy Hibbert two years ago now, the former anchor of this defense, for Myles Turner. They are also playing Al Jefferson at center for large stretches of the game, and he is not known as a rim protector either. Jeff Teague is a subpar defensive player, or he has been when battling the better point guards in the league, so look for Irving to abuse the Pacer point guard. 

LeBron James always seems to battle against Paul George, who appears to elevate his play when battling James, so this game could be a game where George looks to out-duel James and the Cavaliers.

Look to see if Cleveland can take advantage of the Pacers porous defense and if the Cavaliers can capitalize on the Pacers downward trend.

Detroit Pistons

Friday, 18 November 2016 at 07:30 PM ET Home

You think Stanley Johnson still thinks he's in LeBron James' head? 

The first meeting between the two Central Division rivals since the playoffs will likely bring up the question at least once sometime during the week. Then rookie Stanley Johnson quipped that he was in James' head during their playoff series. How did James and the Cavaliers respond? A swift four-game sweep of the upstart Pistons. Kyrie Irving hit some clutch shots against the Pistons, and Kevin Love has played well against the Pistons since being a member of the Cavaliers, including a game where he hit eight threes.

The Pistons play a slow, methodical style of basketball, looking to drag the game into the mud. They are in the bottom third of the league regarding pace, which is possessions per 48 minutes, and offensive rating, but they do defend well through the first 10 games of the year that led them to a 5-5 record. 

Stan Van Gundy is doing his best job to replicate the success that he had in Orlando by using a similar strategy: surround a dominant big man with good shooting. So far this is not the case this year as the Pistons are taking and making the second-least amount of triples in the league.

With the game being at home, look for the Cavaliers to push the pace against the Pistons, which is not something they are accustomed to doing this year, but look for there to be an almighty battle below the rim for rebounds between Drummond and Thompson. 


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