Cleveland Cavaliers Game Previews: October 31 - November 6

Cleveland Cavaliers game previews between October 31 and November 6, including games against the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers.

The Cavaliers opened up their first week of the NBA season with three wins against the Knicks, the Raptors, and the Magic. The Cavaliers have looked anything but impregnable for the first week—two close wins against the Raptors and the Magic proved to be more stressful than need be. The game against the Magic was a bit of an aberration it would seem. The Cavaliers appear to be on the verge of trading young guard Jordan McRae, so they did not play him against the Magic, Channing Frye is dealing with a death in the family, and the Cavaliers could not buy a bucket in the "turd" quarter, shooting 22.2 percent in the third.

If there is anything to take away from the first three games, it's that the Cavaliers appear to be taking it easy on James. Irving has been the leading scorer on the team. James is leading the team in 10 assists a game, and Love has been more aggressive to start the year.  Irving is averaging 25p-4r-4a, James is averaging 21p-8.3r-10a, and Love is averaging 20p-9r-1.3a. This offensive balance is going to be crucial going forward as this will allow James to be the ultimate playmaker on the floor, making ludicrous passes to Mike Dunleavy Jr., Kevin Love, JR Smith and company.

The first week of the year leaves the team with many things to work on over the course of the season, but the biggest one is playing time. James is leading the team at 36.7 minutes, Irving has 35 minutes, and Love is right at 31 a game - if Coach Lue can get the minutes for each player down around where Love is, this will prove to be worthwhile as James and Irving will be fresher come April. Offensive stagnation has been an issue coming out of the locker room the past two games. The recent trend, given it is a small sample size, of the team playing poorly in the "turd" quarter has been disappointing at best and troubling at worst. The ball seems to stick at moments which leads to poor execution of the offense. Irving and James are both guilty of reverting to more of a one-on-one mentality rather than using the floor spacing to their advantage, passing selflessly opening up shots for their teammates as well as themselves, but this is not a chronic issue: many times during the course of the first week, the Cavaliers routinely made the extra pass and then the third pass on top of that, finding an open teammate for a bucket. This kind of offense has been beautiful to watch as they move the ball around the floor confusing the defense.

Houston Rockets

Tuesday, 1 November 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Home

Head Coach Mike D'Antoni and James Harden led Houston Rockets to make their only visit to Cleveland on Tuesday night. Harden is now running the show in Houston as the primary point guard for the Rockets. Having D'Antoni as head coach means that the Rockets offense is fast paced and are leading the league in scoring, right? Wrong. In their first two games, they are 19th in pace—a measure of possessions a team gets per 48 minutes. They're running at a slower pace than the Cavaliers, which is surprising, but it's still early in the year. They lead the league in true shooting percentage. Taking into account the value of the three-point shot and free throws, they're third in the league in offensive efficiency, so they definitely lit up the offensive end of the court in the first two games. Why are they only 1-1? They have a bottom five defense in the league this year, allowing 110 points per 100 possessions, which is mediocre at best. 

The Cavaliers will look to use this to their advantage when the two teams clash at the Q on Tuesday Night. The Cavaliers won't be bothered by the faster pace the Rockets will be looking to run, and there aren't players on the Rockets who can internally abuse the Cavalier bigs. Gone is Dwight Howard from the team, Clint Capela having taken his spot as the starting center in Houston. The key for Cleveland will be their perimeter defense and opportunistic offense: James Harden himself is averaging 5.5 turnovers a game, so if the Cavaliers can aggressively play the passing lanes, look for them to come up with some easy buckets in transition. This has all the makings of an offensive battle, so look for the scoreboard to light up often and points scored in bunches.

Boston Celtics

Thursday, 3 November 2016 at 08:00 PM ET Home

The Boston Celtics travel to Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday Night to face off against the Cavaliers in a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview. The Celtics are coming for the Cavaliers, or at least they think they are. The Celtics have had a philosophical shift this season, or at least in the early part of the season, the numbers bear out that that is the case. Gone are the days where the Celtics would just bully other teams, drag the game into the mud, slowing the pace of the game to a crawl and hoping their defense would keep them in it—they are currently tied with the Clippers for fourth in offensive efficiency, so they are scoring well; their shooting is solid early on in the season, second in the league in terms of true shooting percentage, but their defense has been lackluster—they're a bottom half defense in the league.

Cleveland has the league's second-best defense this season, allowing only 92 points per 100 possessions, so something will have to give when these two teams play. Last season, the Celtics were overpowered by the Cavaliers, winning only one game against Cleveland, albeit by one point on an Avery Bradley buzzer-beater. This matchup has the potential of being an Eastern Conference Finals preview because the addition of Al Horford to the Celtics has given them a veteran element they were missing, and he is another solid defender in the paint to perturb the probing attempts of Irving and potentially James. Cleveland has the league's second-best defense this season, allowing only 92 points per 100 possessions, so something will have to give when these two teams play. Last season the Celtics were overpowered by the Cavaliers, winning only one game against Cleveland, albeit by one point on an Avery Bradley buzzer-beater. This matchup has the very real potential of being an Eastern Conference Finals preview because the addition of Al Horford to the Celtics has given them a veteran element they were missing, and he is another solid defender in the paint to perturb the probing attempts of Irving and potentially James. 

Philadelphia 76ers

Saturday, 5 November 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Away

The Cavaliers three-game homestand ends with the game against the Celtics on Thursday Night as the Cavaliers travel to the City of Brotherly Love on Saturday to take on the enigmatic Sixers. 

This Sixers team has been so bad for the past three years, losing all four matchups from a year ago, but this year the fan base has something to be genuinely excited about  #TheProcess. This year, Philadelphia will celebrate Joel Embiid by chanting "Trust the Process" as he wows and dazzles the fans with what appear to be one-of-a-kind skills. The rookie center has shown flashes of dominance as well as a potentially truly unique skillset this season. In the opener against the Thunder, Embiid hit a foul line Dream Shake jumper to score his first NBA basket. He ended up scoring 20 against talented defender Steven Adams. Embiid played decently against the Cavaliers in the preseason, opening up the scoring in that game with a Tomahawk dunk. It will be interesting to see how he plays against Thompson and Love. 

The Cavaliers need to take advantage of games against weaker opponents when they get them. If the Cavaliers can put the 76ers away early in this game, they will be able to rest James, Irving, and Love in the fourth quarter. This will allow them to avoid taking such a pounding, enabling them to be fresh for the postseason. The Cavaliers struggled to do so against the 76ers on two occasions last year. Both wins were by single digits. The talent disparity between the two teams is wide enough that this should not be the case, but it will all depend on whether or not the shots fall for the men in the Wine and Gold in Philadelphia. 


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