Cleveland Cavaliers: 5 Keys To Defeating The Los Angeles Clippers
King James Gospel gives its five keys for victory as the Cleveland Cavaliers face off against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (13-3) are set to take on the Los Angeles Clippers (14-5) tonight at Staples Center. The game will be nationally televised and broadcast on TNT at 8:00 PM EST.
In the Cleveland Cavaliers last game, they dropped a dud in Milwaukeeas the Los Angeles Clippers lost in double overtime to the Brooklyn Nets. Both teams need to get back on track tonight and with the elite talent on both sides, that won’t be an easy task.
Here are King James Gospel’s five keys to victory.
Being Locked-In For 48 Minutes
Against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Cleveland Cavaliers came out with energy but it quickly tailored off. That ultimately led to 34 points from Antekuompo, a heck of a game from Michael Beasley and an embarrassing moment by J.R. Smith.
Complacency was the word Tyronn Lue used to describe the problem with his team. It’s hard to argue with that assessment. The energy and focus starts with LeBron James but hopefully Lue’s messages hit home for the whole group. Every player in the rotation, from James to Richard Jefferson, needs to step it up.
Against the Los Angeles Clippers, complacency will lead to a blowout. The team may be on a three-game losing streak themselves but the three-headed monster of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will run them off the court.
Defending ‘Lob City’
While Kevin Love has an improved physique and Tristan Thompson is an improved rim-protector, neither are truly equipped to stop Griffin and Jordan from attacking the rim. This could be a game where James plays in the frontcourt with Thompson a lot, with Love and Channing Frye playing a complementary role as stretch-fives.
While matching up with Griffin and Jordan physically is important, Paul is the quarterback delivering the ball to the superstar wide receivers. The Cavs have been baiting point guards to attack the rim all season long but against Paul, one of the best finishers in the game, this isn’t the smartest idea. As the defense collapses on Paul, he has the type of frontcourt around him to allow him drop-off passes anywhere around the lane and the Clippers deliver.
Of course, the Clippers aren’t a strong three-point team and the Cavs could always stack the paint with lengthy limbs and bodies to stop the “Lob City” attack. Doubling Jordan in the paint, who isn’t the best big man to pass out of double-teams, isn’t a bad idea either.
Heavy Minutes From Kyrie Irving and LeBron James
In this game, the Cleveland Cavaliers will need Kyrie Irving and LeBron James to play as much as possible. Making Paul work on the defensive end and keeping up the offensive pace against Clippers second unit will be two of the biggest factors in a Cavs victory. For that, the team needs Irving to play as much as possible. Luckily for Irving, the Clippers point guards possesses the athleticism that gives him trouble defensively nor are they point guards who go on scoring binges like many of the point guards in the Western Conference.
James, as previously mentioned, will be useful guarding Griffin. Whether in the post, on the elbow, or on the perimeter, James should have Griffin’s number. James could get in trouble in transition defense against Griffin but he also will be one of the only players with the mental awareness to beat Griffin back down the court and the physical profile to make a difference when he gets close. Offensively, James should be able to get to the rim consistently using the pick-and-roll from either forward position.
Honestly, the Clippers defense could slow James with their starting lineup. However, once Jamal Crawford and Wesley Johnson has to defend James, James can work either player from any area of the court, especially the post.
The Return Of Channing Frye
Channing Frye has been out for the last two games as he spent time mourning the recent loss of his father, who passed on Thanksgiving. The importance of Frye lies in his ability to take Jordan out of the paint. In those moments when he’s in Jordan is in the game and the Cavs are unable to attack the rim, Frye will give Jordan something to think about. Does he really want to leave the guy whose shooting 48.5 percent on threes open behind the line?
Defensively, Frye doesn’t possess the mobility or leaping ability of Thompson. While he is still a 6-foot-11, 255 pound player who can hold his own against Jordan in the halfcourt, Jordan will still have a significant physical advantage by being every bit of the leaper that Frye is not. Therefore, while Frye puts the Clippers at a disadvantage defensively with his ability to stretch the floor from the center position, Jordan will present a matchup issue for the Cavs himself.
Frye’s matchup against Marreese Speights, a former Cav, isn’t nearly as complex. Speights is a finesse center and although he possesses a big body, he’d rather shoot from the outside, like Frye. He’s not nearly as efficient as Frye from deep, shooting 29.3 percent on 3.1 three-point attempts per game. He is, however, shooting 50.0 percent on shots from 10-16 feet away (the midrange) and long two-point attempts. When Speights is inside, he converts those buckets at 61.5 percent but with Frye there he shouldn’t be nearly as efficient.
Tyronn Lue, who was a longtime assistant coach with the Boston Celtics when Doc Rivers was at the helm, will face his mentor for the second time. In their first matchup, the Cavs won 114-90.
However, that Clippers team was playing with Jeff Green in place of Griffin. Green spent far more time on the perimeter than Griffin would and isn’t the playmaker or pick-and-pop specialist Griffin is. He doesn’t present the same challenges in the paint either. The Cleveland Cavaliers also had Timofey Mozgov to contend with Jordan’s size in the paint. Needless to say, this game will be different. The Los Angeles Clippers have supersized with Speights joining their rotation. The Cleveland Cavaliers have downsized with Mozgov leaving town to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.
How Lue contends with this size differential will be as important as his ability to get his troops to regain their focus. After what he called an “embarrassing” loss, the Cavs will need to play hard and execute to defeat a 14-5 Los Angeles Clippers team. Doc Rivers will need to try to get his team back on track after they lost their third straight game to a bottom-rung team.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have a lot to contend with against the Los Angeles Clippers.
As the team gets Frye back, there should be a reinvigorating energy in the locker room. Still, both James and Tyronn Lue will both have to practice what they preach and try not to be too friendly with Paul and Doc Rivers. In addition, the second unit of the Los Angeles Clippers and the athleticism of their big men poses problems for the Cleveland Cavaliers starting unit.
My expectation? The Cleveland Cavaliers will have a statement win against the Clippers tonight. I don’t expect them to throttle the team by any means. I do expect them execute and emerge victorious.
What do you think the Cleveland Cavaliers need to do to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers? Let us know in the comments section or Twitter @KJG_NBA.
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