When the Bucks and Cavs met up at the start of December, Cleveland walked away with a narrow 111-108 victory in Cleveland. At the time, one might have wondered which direction each team was heading in, with the Cavaliers seeming to finally gel after a slower-than-expected start to their year, and the Bucks kicking off a December that many predicted would be brutal enough to dash Milwaukee's hopes of a post-season run. Reality has decidedly played out differently, at least for Milwaukee, as both teams remain squarely in the middle of the Eastern playoff seeding at the 5th and 6th spots.
If there is one storyline that might have a decided impact on which way tonight goes, it figures to be the injury reports for both sides. LeBron James (knee), Kevin Love (back), and Shawn Marion (ankle) are all questionable for Cleveland with a variety of sprains and soreness. For the Bucks, Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova are once again not expected to play, joining long-term absentees Jabari Parker and Damien Inglis. While Milwaukee has seemingly got along filling in the gaps in the frontcourt in their player's absences, Cleveland relies on their stars in a much more pronounced way. If either James or Love decides to sit for the night, the game may end up dramatically different than at first glance.
Cleveland's style of play can be summed up as a high-scoring offense built to score early and often, and a defense that has holes large enough to drive a pickup through. Notably, the Cavs have pronounced difficulties keeping opponents outside the paint, and the loss of center Anderson Varejao to a season-ending Achilles injury makes head coach David Blatt's job even more difficult. The Cavs rank 12th or better in each of the offensive four factors, but also rank 25th in eFG% allowed. In other words, Milwaukee should plan to take advantage of Cleveland's weaknesses in the paint if they plan on winning tonight.
In many ways, the Cavaliers put up some pretty unimpressive team numbers with either at or below league average production in points (14th), team rebounds (25th), blocks (22nd), and steals (23rd). Of course, when you have the most dominant player of the decade in LeBron James, you can have some average numbers and still be a powerhouse night in and night out. At least that's the hope in Cleveland.
|2014/15 NBA Season|
|December 31st, 2014|
|Quicken Loans Arena | Cleveland, OH|
|Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Brandon Knight||PG||Kyrie Irving|
|Khris Middleton||SG||Matthew Dellavedova|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SF||LeBron James (Q)|
|Johnny O'Bryant III||PF||Kevin Love (Q)|
|Zaza Pachulia||C||Tristan Thompson|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|94.2 (11th)||Pace||92.1 (26th)|
|103.9 (23rd)||ORtg||110.5 (6th)|
|104.4 (10th)||DRtg||107.8 (23rd)|