San Antonio Spurs (35-25) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (35-23)
February 25, 2018 | 2:30 PM CT
Watch: ABC | Listen: WOAI
Spurs injuries: Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management), Manu Ginobili (bruised sternum)
Cavaliers injuries: Kevin Love (fractured hand)
Slowing Down the Cleveland Newcomers
Much has been made of the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers since GM Koby Altman revamped the roster at the trade deadline prior to the All-Star break. Since then, the Cavaliers have been rolling, winning three out of four since Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and George Hill joined the roster.
The four new members of the Cavaliers have been a spark plug for an otherwise staggering offense, combining to score 45.9 points per game since their arrival in Cleveland. The youth movement has taken pressure off LeBron James on a nightly basis, allowing him to facilitate more and rely on his new teammates to score the basketball.
From George Hill in the starting lineup to Nance, Hood, and Clarkson off the bench, the Spurs defense will be challenged from the jump on Sunday afternoon. LeBron James is the head of the snake, but the supporting cast is what makes the Cavaliers a renewed and revitalized title contender. Slowing the foursome down will be pivotal to undermining the Cavs’ offensive attack on Sunday.
Defending the Three-Point Line
Since the trade deadline acquisitions of Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and George Hill specifically, the Cavaliers have begun shooting the ball much better from three. Cleveland has structured their offense off of the drive-and-kick game ever since LeBron arrived back in town for his second stint with the team.
For a good portion of the season, the offensive style had sputtered. However, since revitalizing the roster, the Cavaliers have vastly improved, increasing the overall efficiency of their offense. In the four games since the trade deadline, the Cavaliers have shot 44% (55/125) from three, going 3-1 overall during this most recent stretch. Cleveland now ranks ninth in the NBA in three-point percentage at 36.7% as a team and will be a challenge for the Spurs’ fifth-ranked three-point defense. While the Spurs defense has struggled of late overall, they have defended the three-ball well, holding opponents to 35% shooting from deep.
If the Spurs defense can hold the Cavs to around 35% shooting from three, rather than the 44% mark they have accumulated in the last four games, they will have an opportunity late to steal the victory against the red-hot Cavs.
Vegas line: Cavs by 5
Game prediction: Cavs by 10