After a brief resurgence led by the return of Lebron James, coinciding with 4 straight trips to the Finals and the first championship in franchise history, the Cleveland Cavaliers, once again, have become mostly an afterthought for many NBA fans. At 15-25, a young, up and down group led by the scoring and playmaking of 3rd year guard Collin Sexton is somehow, at the time of writing, only 5 games back of a playoff spot in a crowded Eastern Conference. Still, though, they seemed destined for the 2021 lottery and are currently trying to trade center Andre Drummond, who hasn’t played a game for them since February 12th. Kevin Love is also still there from the old Finals teams, though he’s been limited to just 4 games and less than 60 total minutes of play this season.
To illustrate just how up and down this Cavaliers team is, take a look at their last month of play. A ridiculously tough schedule gave way to a 10-game losing streak for the Cavaliers through the first few weeks of February before they were able to briefly right the ship just long enough to rattle off 4 wins in a row. They once again would go on a losing streak though, this time for 4 more games. That most recent streak was broken Wednesday night in a 117-110 victory over the struggling Boston Celtics in an all-around team victory that saw 5 players scoring in double figures, led by 29 from Sexton.
Tonight’s game in Cleveland was originally part of the Spurs’ Rodeo Road Trip that was largely scratched due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. That game would have been played in the midst of the Cavalier’s 10-game losing streak and may have come against a team down on their luck. With Cleveland coming off another losing streak, the Spurs will need to bring the attention to detail that has been the hallmark of Gregg Popovich’s tenure with the organization if they want to avoid an upset and get their first win over Cleveland since the 2019-2020 season.
San Antonio Spurs (21-16) at Cleveland Cavaliers (15-25)
March 19, 2021 | 6:30 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: DeMar DeRozan (personal - questionable), Keith Bates-Diop (hamstring- day to day)
Cavaliers Injuries: Matthew Dellavedova (abdomen - OUT), Kevin Love (calf - day to day), Tauren Prince (shoulder - OUT)
What to watch for
- The Spurs shot just 8/31 from distance in their comeback win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, including a dreadful 2/16 (12.5%) in the first half. When it comes to opponent 3FG%, only the Sacramento Kings are worse. Cleveland is allowing teams to shoot 38% against them from behind the arc. A better performance from out there early on could be the difference between a blowout win and a nail-biter for the Spurs.
- In their comeback over the Bulls, the Spurs went to a defensive press later in the game that center Jakob Poeltl credited with getting the Silver and Black going on defense and ultimately setting the tone for the comeback victory. With a stable full of young and athletic wings, the Spurs have sprinkled in more press coverage than usual this year. After aiding them in a 19-point comeback, perhaps Pop will deploy it even more aggressively going forward.
- Collin Sexton is averaging 29 points on 53% shooting from the field and 46% from 3 in the 13 games he’s suited up for that have resulted in a Cavaliers victory. Those numbers fall off dramatically in losses, especially the 3 point shooting, where Sexton is making just 32% of his triples in losses (22 games).
- Cavaliers guard Darius Garland tied a career high with 25 points in Cleveland’s win over the Celtics. The young guard is averaging 16 points a night and is shooting almost 39% from 3. While Garland and Sexton have shown some serious promise for Cleveland, they young backcourt is at a height disadvantage when looking at San Antonio’s options at the wings.
For the Cavaliers fan’s perspective, please visit Fear the Sword.
As always, the PtR Game Thread will be up 30 minutes before tip-off for all members who wish to discuss the game with other members.