1. The Clippers have a lot of guys who defend the perimeter extremely well. How should the Cavs plan for this in their offensive attack?
Chris Manning, RDE co-editor: This is as good a game as ever for the Cavaliers to start moving the ball – especially inside. While the Clippers do have some minus defenders, they have players (Chris Paul, first and foremost) that can shutdown the Cavaliers as they try and initiate their sets. Early and often they need to get Andrew Bynum touches on the block, get Tristan Thompson looks a little bit away from the basket and then run pick & rolls with Anderson Varejao. The most important person here is Bynum, as the Clippers do not have a big who can body up Bynum, meaning the Clippers should start doubling early and often. This, more than anything, should help the Cavaliers get some room to operate off the wing.
Trevor Magnotti, Staff Writer: They’re going to need to pound the rock against the Clippers posts. Plain and simple. The Cavs can’t really rely on ISOs this game, because Jared Dudley, Chris Paul, and Willie Green will shut that down, really quickly. However, outside of Blake Griffin, the Clips lack a good post defender. DeAndre Jordan can protect the rim, but he’s not great one-on-one, and Bynum should kill him there. And when the Clips go to Ryan Hollins or Byron Mullens? Please. Post Bynum up all day on these guys, and that should ease the perimeter dogs off the Cavs’ wings.
Marlowe Alter, Staff Writer: Well I have to disagree with the question. Outside of Chris Paul, the Clippers have holes at the wing spots defensively especially with Matt Barnes out. Rookie Reggie Bullock has good size and could be a good defender but he’s still learning the NBA game and I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable isolating him against the top wing scorers in the league. Willie Green? Jared Dudley? Jamal Crawford? None of those guys are plus-defenders and Crawford is abysmal. I’d like to see Irving run Paul off screens to free him up but I think we’ll see a lot of Waiters tonight because the Clippers don’t have anybody who can stay in front of him.
2. Jamal Crawford and Dion Waiters are two ballers who’ve never turned down a shot attempt. How many shots do these notorious shot chuckers take and how many points will they combine for?
CM: I loved how Dion played against the Hawks last night, but he’ll struggle against the better defenders on the Clippers roster. Thus, considering the Cavaliers don’t have anyone who be able to stay in front of Crawford (except maybe an appearance from a Nets game-type Waiters?) having a pretty good game tonight. I’ll say Dion goes 5-12 from the field and finishes with around 13 points. Expect Crawford to shoot (and make) more, going 8-13 from the field and finishing with over 20 points.
TM: Dion vs. What Dion will be in six years, in my opinion. The per-game averages mean 5-13 for Dion and 6-13 for Jamal, which isn’t terrible. With how the Clips defend the outside, and how the Cavs……don’t do that…….I’d expect those to distance themselves. I’ll say Dion goes something like 4-11 from the field for around 10 points, while JCrossover has something like 8-13 for 19 points.
MA: Watching these two shot hoisters go at it off the bench will be fun. Crawford has been scoring the ball efficiently this season and with JJ Reddick injured, will see more playing time next to Chris Paul. Waiters caught fire last night and is playing better of late, averaging 20 points on 53 percent shooting over his last five games. I say they combine to notch 40 points on 32 shots against two mediocre defenses.
3. True of false (and why): The Cavaliers frontcourt trio of Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum will be able to slow down Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan enough to help make the game competitive.
CM: This is 100 percent true. The Cavaliers chance to win this game is to win the battle down, and that starts with Bynum versus Jordan. Jordan doesn’t have enough in his offensive repertoire to really threaten Bynum. As for Griffin, he’s been great this season, and is underrated finishing at the rim, if that’s even possible Thompson is going to need to hound Griffin and get physical early . Either that or he is rendered ineffective like has often happened against power forwards better than him (see Millsap, Paul). And if Andeson Varejao hedges hard while defending Griffin, expect things like this to happen.
TM: Absolutely true. Bynum is going to work DAJ on the offensive side of the ball, and Jordan doesn’t do enough things on the offensive end to pose a threat. I think this is going to be an uly matchup for LA. At power forward, Thompson is athletic enough to be able to slow down Griffin, although I think Blake still has a big game. Mainly that’s because Blake’s been the second best power forward in the league this season, averaging 21/11/3 on 54 percent shooting. However, I think he also has some solid moves down low and will be able to finish in transition better than TT can help, and for that, I think that’s a disadvantage. Also, please, for the love of God, do not allow Anderson Varejao to guard Griffin in a pick-and-roll. That will end in carnage for the Cavs.
MA: True, they will slow down the Clips big men. Cleveland was torched by Atlanta’s duo of Al Horford and Paul Millsap last night but Griffin and Jordan provide a different challenge. Horford and Millsap are far more skilled offensive players while Griffin and Jordan are the most athletic frontcourt tandem in the league. Jordan isn’t much of a threat in the post but is second in offensive rebounding and rebounds per game. Griffin has worked tirelessly to become better in the half-court and although he still isn’t where you’d like him to be, his jump shot is improving. Now Griffin is much too quick and explosive for Thompson to consistently stop, so the Cavs may double Griffin and see if they can create some turnovers or at least make the Clips go somewhere else. Where Griffin and Jordan are most dangerous is off pick-and-roll lobs from Chris Paul and on the offensive glass so Cleveland must play better team pick-and-roll defense (Irving *coughs*) and prevent easy second-chance points.
4. Who has better handles: the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford or the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving?
CM: It has to be Kyrie Irving. Jamal is nice, but Kyrie Irving might have the best handle in the NBA right now. Even when teams hound him on the inside, he is able to keep his dribble and, this season, has only loses the ball when he misses a shot at the rim. Still, when it comes to handling the ball, he’s amongst the elite of the elite.
TM: Kyrie. Jamal’s got moves, but no one consistently flashes their handle of the ball in game situations than Kyrie Irving. I’ve only watched Irving lose the ball once this season off the dribble, in the closing minutes of regulation in the Washington win. Other than that, even when he gets tripped, beaten up, or double-teamed, Kyrie always has a solid handle on the ball.
MA: It’s an unfair comparison because JCrossover, as he calls himself on twitter, has been doing it for years and even at 33 can rock a defender with the best of them. For my money, he has complied the slickest moves in the game, just ask Ray Allen. Crawford is the main reason (along with Clyde Frazier idioms and the joy in schadenfreude) I watched those laughable Knick teams in the mid-2000s. He invented the shake-and-bake. ‘Uncle Drew’ is still a youngster and has work to do before I put him in the same class as Crawford.