Opponent Scouting: Cleveland Cavaliers. (23-6)
Tonight the Pistons will be hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at the Palace and will tip at 7:30pm EST. The Pistons are on 2 days rest after a loss to the Warriors Friday, the Cavaliers are on the 2nd night of a back to back after beating the Warriors yesterday.
The Cavs are really good, but supposedly there is a good chance that one or both of LeBron and Kyrie will not play tonight. Given how in the air it is though, it kind of throws the whole preview off a bit but whatever.
The Cavs sport a sizzling offensive efficiency of 111.3, and a fairly pedestrian defensive efficiency of 104.1. They are of course led into battle by LeBron James who remains, by far, the best player in the world. Remember that everyone talks about how much he is coasting, and yet his averages are: 25.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.4 steals, and half a block per game in 36.9 minutes. While sporting a TS% of 59.4 including 37.9% from 3. LeBron James is insane. Kyrie Irving is a phenomenal scorer in isolation and is scoring 23.9 per game on good efficiency, while also dishing 5.7 assists against 2.4 turnovers. Which while his passing is not hugely impressive, he has cut his turnovers significantly which is good, but he still doesn't really play a lot of defense. Kevin Love appears to largely be back into full form averaging 21.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game on a TS% of 61.3, and also playing pretty decent defense for the most part. Beyond the big 3, Tristan Thompson is a very good role player big man who rebounds like crazy and can defend pretty well. JR Smith is injured, and in his play they have been starting DeAndre Liggins, who plays defense like crazy but doesn't do much else. Iman Shumpert is having a nice bounce back year and is back into being a rock solid 2 way role player. Richard Jefferson is somehow still pretty good as a swiss army knife type off of the bench, Channing Frye is big and can freaking shoot, Mike Dunleavy is old but in theory can still shoot, Jordan McRae can score but it isn't clear if he is good enough at it to justify how bad he is at everything else. Kay Felder is tiny but has only really played in garbage time. James Jones is the greatest player of all time.
This is a team that is coasting a bit, but in a good way. They have found a groove in which their big 3 are all in great chemistry together and they have the right role players to compliment them, even if they are a little bit thin on depth. The Cavs are very good, but if LeBron and Kyrie don't play they will be much less scary.
Matchups to watch:
LeBron and Kyrie vs. Playing: This is mostly actually for LeBron. When he is on the court the Cavs have a net rating of +12.6, and a -6.7 when he is on the bench. Kyrie is good, but LeBron is still the engine that drives this team. If either of them are out it will make a big difference and give the Pistons a huge boost.
KCP vs. Kyrie: (if Kyrie plays) KCP got absolutely cooked last time they met, and that was just one part of the season where KCP has taken a small but noticeable step back defensively. He did a decent job on Curry in the last game, but if he could lock up Kyrie that would do a lot for my general view of him, if he were to get cooked again though, it just further reinforces the idea that he has slipped a bit.
Pistons vs. Kevin Love: Especially if Kyrie and LeBron are out, stopping Kevin Love will be huge for the Pistons. Leuer and Tobias will end up getting most of the time on him, and they will have to respond. Especially with Tobias, he will have to punish Love on the other end of the court.
Andre vs. Defending the perimeter: Whether it is Love or Channing Frye, the Cavs spend a lot of time with a 3 point shooter at center. In fact pretty much any time that Tristan Thompson is not playing there is a 3 point shooter at center. Andre absolutely has the skills to cover guys outside, he has shown that time and time again. But the Pistons defensive scheme keeps him near the hoop at pretty much all costs, so it is a hard adjustment for him to play team defense while having to keep with a shooter.
Lineup? We were told that SVG has not decided long term if Marcus or Tobias will be coming off the bench, or if he will even stick with Leuer as a starter long term. It will be intersting to see exactly how it ends up going.
Pistons vs. Playing well still: Even though they lost the last two games, the Pistons absolutely got back into good form. Especially if LeBron and Kyrie are out, a win tonight would be huge. Because there is only so long that you can just say “Well we played well” before it doesn't make a difference.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
LeBron and Kyrie don't play.
Andre is feasting on the boards whenever Frye is on the floor.
The Pistons play together and get a win.
Run for the hills if:
LeBron and Kyrie play.
Andre struggles to cover guys on the outside.
The Pistons fall back into crap play and are down big even with LeBorn and Kyrie out.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
LeBron and Kyrie don't play.
Reggie Jackson plays really well.
Pistons win pretty easily over a undermanned and kind of disinterested Cavs team.
What do you think? Will LeBron and Kyrie play? If he plays can KCP hold Kyrie?