San Antonio Spurs @ Cleveland CavaliersQuicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
March 4, 2014 6:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
The San Antonio Spurs moved to 43-16 on the season and remain 1.5 games back of OKC in the Western Conference after a 112-106 home-win against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night. It wasn't the win that excited Spurs fans however, but rather the fact that San Antonio was able to play a game with a full stable of players for the first time in what seems like forever. Tony Parker showed very little rust, scoring a game-high 22 points, while Boris Diaw had 10 rebounds and Manu Ginobili had seven assists.
The Spurs hit the road for the first time since the Rodeo Road Trip with a visit to Cleveland to take on an improving Cavaliers squad. The Cavs are coming off a loss against Memphis, but they're 6-4 over their last 10 games and are creeping up the standings in the dreadful Eastern Conference. Cleveland is 24-37 on the season, but a strong finish could allow the Cavs to take over the eighth spot in the East if Atlanta or Charlotte fold down the stretch.
Cleveland has been a different team at home and that makes this matchup interesting. They're a pitiful 9-22 on the road, but a respectable 15-15 record at home this season. Kyrie Irving has been surging since his All-Star MVP performance, and is averaging a team-high 21.5 points, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals on the season. Considered one of the top young point guards in this league, Irving got off to a shaky start this season, along with the rest of his team. He's turned it around over the last month, though, and the Cavs have improved greatly since then.
The Cavs were without C.J. Miles and Dion Waiters against Memphis and it's unclear if one or both will be back for tonight's matchup with the Spurs. Former Texas Longhorn Tristan Thompson continues his progression as a legit NBA power forward. He scored 18 points and had eight rebounds in the loss to Memphis. On the season, he is averaging 12.3 points and 9.7 rebounds. Cleveland can become reliant on perimeter scoring, especially with Waiters in the lineup, so the continued offensive progression from Thompson is one of the keys for this franchise getting back to playoff contention this in 2014 and beyond.
It is rare for a struggling team to add a valuable peace to the puzzle during the middle of the season, but that is exactly what Cleveland did when they picked up Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls. With the absence of Waiters, Deng has had to become the wing scorer for the Cavs since joining the team. He's averaging over 16 points and around six assists this season. Spencer Hawes, their new starting center, was acquired at the trade deadline and that move has paid off as well, so far. Hawes is a borderline double-double threat in every game and averages over a block per game.
Jarrett Jack is capable of putting up points if he is starting at the off-guard position or coming off the bench. Anthony Bennett, the first overall pick of last summer's draft, is slowly becoming a decent role player, but he's got a long way to go before he removes himself from the ignominious list of all-time draft busts.
Cleveland is an average rebounding and defensive team, ranking in the middle-of-the-pack in both of those categories, but the Cavs do struggle to score the ball. That has improved lately, and even scoring 96 against Memphis wasn't too bad. They'll probably need more than that to beat a Spurs team that averages 104 though and are practically unbeatable whenever they score 102 points or more. The Cavs average 97 points per game and give up 101.2, so unless Irving goes insane, this should be a relatively routine win for the good guys.
Matchup to watch: Tony Parker was great in his first game back from injury but he'll be challenged by one of the more athletic point guards in the game in Irving. Stopping any star point is a team effort, but if Parker can match his output on the offensive side and make Irving defend while he's on the floor, the Spurs have a great chance to take this victory going away.
Cavs perspective can be found here: Fear The Sword
Game Prediction: Spurs by 7.
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 7.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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