Time to Unhorse the Cavaliers

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Published: January 16, 2009

Matchup: Hornets(23-12) @ Cavaliers(30-7)

Off Efficiency: Hornets 107.1(8th), Cavaliers 110.1(2nd)
Def Efficiency: Hornets 103.2(13th), Cavaliers 96.3(1st)

The Cavaliers stumbled last night in Chicago, falling in overtime behind an abysmal showing by LeBron James, who went 8-28 from the field and had 8 turnovers.  The Cavs also lost starting shooting guard Delonte West to a broken wrist when he had a nasty fall that makes me cringe every time I see it.  A man’s head shouldn’t bounce like that.  Ugh.

Anyways, of the four elite teams in the league(Celts, Magic, Lakers, Cavs) the Cavaliers have been the most impressive of the bunch.  Currently they sport the 2nd best offense and the best defense in the league.  That second number is no surprise, but based on what this team showed offensively in the last two years, this year’s offensive efficiency is amazing, and a most of it is due to improvement by the Cavs big three scorers:  LeBron James has improved his efficiency from 1.37 points per shot to 1.44, second option Zydrunas Ilgauskas improved his average to 1.25, up from 1.11, and instead of relying on Larry Hughes as a third option(ugh) the Cavs are getting 1.29 points per shot from Mo Williams.  By way of comparison, here are the Hornet’s most prolific three scorers: Paul(1.45), West(1.26), and Peja(1.10).  We really need Peja to come back to form and be that third scorer for us.

The first obstacle the Hornets will have to overcome tonight is the crowd in Quicken Loans Arena.  The Cavalier’s home field advantage has propelled their team to a 19-0 record so far this season, the best start since the Bulls of ’95-’96 won their first 37 games at home.  Interestingly, that Bulls streak was ended by our Hornets, so we can pretend our team is good at busting home streaks.  Rock on.

Fortunately for the Hornets, the Cavs are walking wounded right now and ripe for the picking.

Injuries

Hornets: None
Cavaliers: Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Delonte West will be out for tonight’s game.  Ben Wallace is day-to-day.

Positional Analysis

PG: Chris Paul v Mo Williams
Advantage: Hornets
Interesting fact about Chris Paul from the ESPN research team:  He has either made or assisted on 52% of the Hornets points this season.  That leads the league, with him being trailed by Dwayne Wade(48%) and LeBron James(44%).  Mo Williams isn’t that good, but he’s a pretty solid offensive player.  He has some trouble with quick guards, and in the earlier game this season the Cavs shifted him off of guarding Chris Paul whenever they could.  That is the reason for the following matchup:

SG: Rasual Butler v Daniel Gibson
Advantage: Even
In the last game Daniel got the honor of tracking Chris Paul whenever he was on the floor, and I assume with Delonte West going down, they will insert him into the starting lineup instead of Wally Sczcerbaik so he can cross match defensively on Paul.  Gibson has the size and speed of a point guard, but his handle is questionable and he’s not so good at getting into the paint.  Instead, he feasts on open threes at the perimeter generated by LeBron.  Rasual is shooting better this season than Gibson, and he’ll be a good person to track either Gibson or Williams with defensively.  They should cancel each other out.

SF: Peja Stojakovic v LeBron James
Advantage: Cavaliers
People have always been surprised that Peja does an okay job containing LeBron, but it makes sense.  LeBron’s greatest asset is his strength, but Peja is actually fairly strong, and he’s intelligent enough to give LeBron room so he can’t drive as easily.  In the past few games against the Hornets, James has been taking the easy way out, and jacking up long twos and three point shots.  Now, if LeBron decides to make a concerted effort to drive – the Hornets may have trouble.  Peja HAS to stick his outside shots, or the Hornets will have a lot of trouble.

PF: Anderson “Sideshow Bob” Varejao v Fluffy
Advantage: Hornets
This is not going to be anywhere as big of an advantage as you’d assume if you looked at Varejao’s averages of 9 points and 7 rebounds. However, Varejao may be one of the best defensive big men in the game, his energy, strength and blindingly huge hair providing significant impediments to putting the ball in the basket from the low post.  I have a feeling David West will be somewhat frustrated by Varejao tonight.  He’ll score – but he’ll be working hard for every point.

C: Lorenzen Wright v Tyson Chandler
Advantage: Hornets
Lorenzen is barely a serviceable backup anymore, but he’s what Tyson will see with Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas out.  Tyson should be able to outproduce him fairly easily – though he’ll be in a battle on the boards with Anderson.

Bench
Advantage: Hornets
Wally Sczcerbiak, JJ Hickson, and Sasha Pavlovic.  That’s what the Cavaliers are down for their second unit with all the injuries.  That group isn’t going to scare anyone, so expect long minutes for the starters tonight.  Sczcerbiak can still hit the open shot, Sasha can sometimes hit the open shot, and JJ Hickson is a young bruiser who makes mistakes but will play with energy.  I’ll take Armstrong, Posey, and Daniels.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see this one.

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