Cavs look for improvement; Pacers aim to keep momentum
By Zac Jackson
FOX Sports Ohio
November 23, 2010
Previewing tonight's Cavaliers-Pacers game...
THE SKINNY: Cavaliers (5-7) at Pacers (6-6), Conseco Fieldhouse, 7 p.m. ET. FOX Sports Ohio has the broadcast with Fred McLeod and Austin Carr on the call.
THE STARTERS: The Cavaliers will likely go with Mo Williams and Anthony Parker at guard and Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson in the frontcourt. Byron Scott hinted about a lineup change that could include Joey Graham replacing Jamario Moon at small forward, but that's not official. In last night's surprising yet dominating win in Miami, the Pacers started Roy Hibbert and Josh McRoberts in the frontcourt, Danny Granger and Brandon Rush on the wings and Darren Collison at the point. Granger, who always seems to play well against the Cavs, had 34 points in the Pacers' win in Cleveland on Nov. 13.
THE SCOOP: The Cavaliers need a win badly after starting this road trip with losses at New Orleans and San Antonio. The Pacers have to hope they've got something left in the tank after dominating the Heat, 93-77, last night as Granger and Rush scored 20 points apiece. The Heat showed little fight in the fourth quarter as the Pacers cruised and maybe saved their legs; only Granger and Rush played more than 30 minutes.
Both teams are different than they were in the meeting in Cleveland 11 days ago. The Cavaliers didn't have Williams or Varejao and didn't have much hope of keeping up with Granger; they're hoping for positive results on all "new" fronts tonight. The Pacers have since put Rush in the starting lineup and have also used T.J. Ford as both a starter and backup at point. Their goal is still to play fast, but their defensive improvement is noticeable and they're especially strong on defense when Hibbert is on the floor.
Ford (+26) and backup post player Solomon Jones (+21) were a combined plus-47 in the +/- category last night in Miami. The Pacers bench outscored the Heat's, 32-4.
The Cavaliers have the league's highest-scoring bench but need more from their starters and need to be much better at the defensive end than they were last weekend. Some rest, some practice and possible lineup tinkering could help. Williams has yet to hit his stride as he's been battling injury since September, but he played well on the first two games of the trip and Antawn Jamison and Daniel Gibson continue to shoot well. Scott insists his team will improve as its chemistry and communication do, too.
Keys to the Cavaliers winning tonight include improved defense, Varejao winning his battle with the improving Hibbert and keeping Granger from posting a crazy number. If Scott tinkers with the rotation it won't just be about this game but about finding a spark and creating some momentum for a very tough road ahead.
THE SERIES: The Nov. 13 win was the Pacers' second-straight in the series, though the Cavaliers have dominated the last three years. The teams play again Dec. 17 in Indiana.
WHAT'S AHEAD: The Cavaliers' busy week continues with a Wednesday home game vs. Milwaukee, a Friday trip to Orlando and a Saturday night home game with Memphis.