Cleveland Cavaliers game previews between December 12 and December 18, including games against the Los Angeles Lakers and a home-and-home series with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Cavaliers are back.
After a rough week that saw them go 0-3, the now refocused Cavaliers came out of the gates strong this week, winning all four games against their Eastern Conference rivals by a combined 77 points, including a 30-point drubbing of the Miami Heat and a 32-point dismantling of the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
The Cavaliers debuted their 2016/2017 Hardwood Classics jerseys against the Heat on Friday, and this helped to pump some nostalgic energy into the Q for their games against the Heat and Hornets this weekend.
One welcome return was made by the Cavaliers defense. Not only was the defense non-existent during their three-game skid, but it was their evident lack of effort that was more concerning. Starting against the Raptors, the Cavaliers made a concerted effort to put more emphasis on the defensive end of the floor.
All in all, it was a great week for the Cavaliers, and this week could bring more of the same.
Tuesday, 13 December 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Home
On Saturday Night, the Memphis Grizzlies took on the vaunted Warriors of Oakland and utterly dismantled and embarrassed them. Mind you the team accomplished this victory without the services of the Grizzles point guard Mike Conley Jr.
The Cavaliers will host the Grizzles on Tuesday and will immediately after the game fly to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies at the Grindhouse, FedExForum.
The Grizzlies have a bottom five offensive rating in the NBA but hold the top spot when it comes to defensive rating. This is the Grizzlies' modus operandi: slow the game down, play tough, physical defense, grind out the game, hence the term Grindhouse.
Not surprisingly, the Cavaliers will have to make sure to be up for playing back-to-back against this team. The Grizzlies will bully their opponents, and they have been playing very well this year. They have also yet to lose on the back end of a back-to-back this year, entering the week at 6-0.
Wednesday, 14 December 2016 at 08:00 PM ET Away
One thing that can and will determine the outcome of these two games for the Cavaliers and the Grizzlies is perimeter shooting.
In victories, the Grizz allow opponents to shoot 30.9% from long range. In losses this season they are allowing opponents to shoot over 40%. The Cavaliers, as a team, shoot 40.1% from distance, so something will have to give, or this could be the key aspect that determines the games.
LeBron James (only) averaged 20 points a game against the Grizzles last season, but one of those games was a resounding blowout victory, and another one was a three-point loss.
It will be interesting to see what strategy the Grizzlies employ to try to slow down the Cavaliers three-headed monster on offense. Do they vote to make James beat them? Love? Irving? Or will it be a steady diet of all three of them that will do in the Grizzlies?
Tune in to find out.
Los Angeles Lakers
Saturday, 17 December 2016 at 07:30 PM ET Home
Let's just get this out of the way: this once great matchup has lost all its luster.
Gone is Kobe Bryant.
Gone are the LeBron James and Kobe Bryant puppet commercials.
Gone are the days of this being a Christmas Day matchup with Reindeer being dunked on after being wished a Merry Christmas.
Now it's just a sad reminder of what once was.
That is not to say that this can't regain it's magic if D'Angelo Russell can become a high-quality player for this team and begin a head-to-head rivalry with Kyrie Irving.
Russell is coming off of a knee injury, and despite missing a few games, the Lakers sit only two games outside of the playoffs. This team has a youth movement going on, led by Russell and Julius Randle. Coach Luke Walton has brought aspects of the Warriors offense to LA, and the impacts have been noticeable. The Lakers are playing better than they have in the past few seasons as they have shed the seemingly dead-weight corpse of Kobe Bryant. Bryant was one of the greatest players of his generation, arguably the second-best shooting guard of all time, but he should have called it a day when he tore his Achilles' tendon. Having retired, the Lakers seem to be much lighter than in previous campaigns.
The Lakers have had a problem with injuries to key players this season, so their record (10-15) is not representative of their true potential. To see their true potential, look no further than a game against the Golden State Warriors earlier this season where the Lakers blew out the Dubs. This was their showcase, showing what they're capable of when they play at a high level.
Having said all of that, they simply do not have the talent to hang with Cleveland in this matchup. What's left of Luol Deng will be going up against James when they're on the floor together, but this is no longer a fair fight, not that it ever was.
Cavaliers shouldn't have a problem handling the Lakers when they come to town, but they do have to give one Laker something very special: The Cavaliers will be awarding Timofey Mozgov his championship ring when they arrive at the Q on Saturday.