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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Cleveland Cavaliers

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Following a blowout victory over the Sixers, the Spurs visit the new-look Cavs Wednesday night in what many still consider a potential Finals preview. How will San Antonio fare against the league's latest 'Big Three'?

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs @ Cleveland Cavaliers

Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
November 19, 2014, 6:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: ESPN - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

It's a strange thing, a fan's adoration. At first glance it can seem an undying, fire-proof entity -- resistant to all the jealousy, scorn and ill-conceived Jordan comparisons that you could muster with a thousand Internets. It endures postseason disappointment and awkward Delonte West rumors, keeping a doting crown rested firmly on its subject's depilated brow.

Then a shift in the basketball winds occurs and that loving feeling is scorched beyond recognition, leaving behind only the stench of burnt jerseys (and bridges) wafting in the stale air of four failed seasons. But resentment, like NBA contracts, has an expiration date--which also sometimes comes with a hometown discount.

In a flash of pyrotechnics and a plume of powdered chalk, Cleveland's love for LeBron James has returned to form, like the Phoenix. Or, perhaps more aptly, Voldemort. The horcruxes look slightly different, but there is clearly some sort of sorcery going on here, right?

With the arrival of LeBron and Kevin Love (who, despite his absence in the commercial, does indeed play on the same team) the Cavaliers became preseason Vegas favorites to win it the title. While they've shown flashes of the potential brilliance to come, there have been plenty of early struggles for a team few expected to start 1-3. They continued Monday night, with a 106-97 home loss to the struggling Denver Nuggets.

Not surprisingly, Cleveland has lived up to much of the hype surrounding its ability to score the ball. With three elite talents at or near the primes of their respective careers, they're able to stretch and bend defenses, and have somehow led to many an NBA writer's fetishizing of the old outlet pass.

Even with Kyrie Irving still learning how to share the ball, the Cavs are so talented that they will find ways to score. They're near the top in Off Rtg so far, which is especially remarkable given the slower pace they're currently playing at. Depending on the opponent, their starting lineup can pose a mismatch at every position -- at least on the offensive end of the court.

Their concerns lie on defense, however, with a Def Rtg of 108.3, which is good for fifth-worst in the league. Jason Patt recently wrote a piece on the team's defensive struggles (specifically against the pick and roll), which lays out what's going wrong with David Blatt's squad. Indeed it starts with Irving and Waiters getting beaten off the dribble, but the defense continues to unravel from there, with poor rim protection and wings who are too old (Shawn Marion and Mike Miller) to recover and get a hand in the face of the open three-point shooter.

Meanwhile the Spurs' issues thus far have been in their own offensive execution, with turnovers and cold shooting being typical bugaboos. It just looks like guys are not where they need to be on the floor and aren't catching the ball in rhythm yet. The team's 25-point win against Philly didn't serve to allay these concerns, as last year's Spurs would've probably won that game by 50.

The Spurs will likely be without Marco Belinelli and Tiago Splitter tonight. We'll know closer to gametime who suits up, but both guys have been involved in drills and are expected to return soon. Splitter's absence, especially, makes it difficult for San Antonio, who faces a number of talented Cavs big men and slashers who can feast around the hoop.

Tonight will be a true challenge in the midst of a relatively easy stretch for San Antonio. It's the type of game where Tristan Thompson or Anderson Varejao could go for a gritty 17 and 10, and nullify an otherwise-well-thought-out scouting report of limiting Cleveland's transition points, pick-and-rolling them into oblivion, and forcing Kyrie Irving to shoulder too much of the offensive load. But give me the Spurs by a hair. Or an Aron Baynes throwdown over Kevin Love. Either one will do.

Matchup to watch: Kawhi Leonard versus LeBron James. What Kawhi does guarding James off the ball might be just as important as when he's in possession of it. If he can deny him enough and force Irving and Waiters into hero ball, the game gets a bit easier for the Spurs. Plus, any chance for Leonard to further his Kingslayer legacy, the better.

vs

San Antonio Spurs (6-4)

San Antonio Spurs (5-4)

November 19, 2014

Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio

6:00 PM CDT

TV: ESPN

Radio: WOAI 1200AM

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Kyrie Irving

Danny Green

SG

Dion Waiters

Kawhi Leonard

SF

LeBron James

Boris Diaw

PF

Kevin Love

Tim Duncan

C

Anderson Varejao


Prediction: Spurs by 2

For the Cavaliers' perspective, visit Fear the Sword.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment: Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com