The Cleveland Cavaliers travel to Auburn Hills for Friday night’s tilt against the Detroit Pistons still trying to get used to coach Tyronn Lue’s up tempo style.
The Cavs looked like they started to find themselves in the second half of their 113-95 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday when they turned a five-point halftime lead into a 17-point advantage three minutes into the third quarter. Cleveland used its aggressive defense to kick start a 12-0 spurt that included six fast break points and two Kevin Love three-pointers.
Cleveland enters the game in Detroit with the top record in the Eastern Conference at 32-12 but the Toronto Raptors has closed the gap to two games as they have won 10 straight.
To be honest, the Cavs haven’t looked like a NBA championship team recently as they are just 7-3 in their last 10, which includes two awful performances against Chicago and Golden State as well as a blown opportunity against San Antonio. The Cavs are 2-1 since Lue, who will coach the Eastern Conference in the All-Start game, took over the reins from David Blatt though finished their recent homestand with a 3-1 record.
Cleveland also possesses the Eastern Conference best road record at 14-9 and is an NBA best 8-1 on the road since Dec. 28. The Cavaliers also has the conference’s best point differential at plus-5.6 a game and has a very respectable plus-4.5point differential away from Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland is 20-7 against Eastern Conference foes though the Cavs are just 2-4 against their division rivals.
Detroit (25-21) enters the game sixth in the conference, having won two straight. The Pistons are very good at home, owning a 15-7 record at The Palace at Auburn Hills as they outscore 7.2 points a game there. Detroit averages 105.1 points a game at home compared to 101.9 points the Pistons average overall this year.
Detroit won the first meeting against Cleveland at The Palace of Auburn Hills back on Nov. 17 104-99 as the Cavs scored two points in the final 3:01 of the game and were outscored 29-18 in the fourth quarter. The Pistons are 14-10 against Eastern Conference foes and 5-4 against Central Division rivals.
Cleveland trails in the all-time series 119-84 but the Wine and Gold have won six-of-the past-8 meetings with the Pistons, including 4-of-5 of their last five in Detroit. The Cavs get the Pistons at Quicken Loans Arena on Feb. 22 and April 13.
Keys for the Cavs
1. It all starts with the D
The Cavs are third in the NBA in scoring defense, permitting just 95.9 points a game, and 13th in opponent’s field goal percentage at 44.3 percent. They are also limiting opponents to 34.1 percent from beyond the arc, which is the ninth in the league.
While Cleveland permitted Phoenix to shoot 47.1 percent for the, including 52.9 percent in the first half, the Cavs wretched up the defense in the second half. The Cavs limited the Suns to 43 second half points on 43.8 percent shooting from the field (14-of-32) as Cleveland held Phoenix to 6-of-19 shooting (31.6 percent in the fourth quarter). They also forced 23 Suns turnovers for the game – 13 in the second half — which the Cavs turned into 33 points.
Cleveland is 20-6 when holding opponents under the century mark and 10-0 when holding their opponents to less than 40.0 percent shooting. The Cavs have held their opponents to less than 90 points 14 times and below 80 on six occasions
2. Get out and run
Lue is trying to get the Cavs to pick up the pace. Cleveland ranks 28th in the league in pace and averages 12.3 fast break points this year. The Cavs got out in transition on 36 percent of their possessions against Phoenix and picked up 19 fast break points. For the season, Cleveland is out in transition only 12 percent of their possessions — which puts them in the middle of the pack.
Cleveland has recorded 44 fast break points under Lue as they have converted 18-of-their-24 opportunities (75 percent of their opportunities).
Detroit turns the ball over 13.8 times a game but only allows their opponent 10.4 fast break points a contest.
3. Protect the ball
The Cavs have been pretty sloppy the past two games with the ball. Cleveland has committed 15 in each of their last two wins over Phoenix and Minnesota. Kyrie Irving and LeBron James has been particularly careless with the ball, committing seven turnovers apiece in those two games. James did have 18 dimes and Irving doled out 10 helpers.
The Cavs will need to take care of the basketball better tonight as the Pistons get 8.7 steals and force 14.7 turnovers a game. Detroit is averaging 16.7 points off of its opponents’ turnovers and is 14th in league with 12.2 fast break points a game.
Cleveland averages 13.9 turnovers a game for the season and yields 17.2 points off of them.
4. Defensive rebounding
This is strength vs strength as the Cavs are a very good defensive rebounding club and the Pistons are outstanding on the offensive glass. Cleveland must block out the Pistons offensive rebounders and prevent them from getting second chance opportunities.
Detroit is the third best rebounding team in the league and ranks second on the offensive glass. They average 13.7 offensive caroms a game and 15.6 second chance points – which is the second most in the NBA.
Andre Drummond leads the way with 5.3 offensive boards a contest and six of his points come via second chance opportunities. Ersan Ilyosava averages 2.0 offensive caroms a game while Aron Baynes picks up 1.6 a contest and Marcus Morris hauls 1.3.
The Cavs are a good rebounding team, ranked ninth in total rebounding, but they excel on the defensive boards. Cleveland ranks third in the league in defensive rebounding percentage at 79.0 percent and are surrendering only 10.9 second chance points.
Kevin Love is the team’s best defensive rebounder grabbing nearly 30 percent of all rebounds on that end while Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varajao are the Cavs next best on the defensive boards with each collecting more than 20 percent of the available rebounds.
5. Stopping Andre Drummond
Drummond scored 25 points and 18 rebounds as he made 10-of-15 shots from the field. Drummond averages 17.3 points a game this season as he is making 51.8 percent of his shots from the field though he struggles from the foul line so expect the Cavs to employ hack-a-Andre-technique.
Cleveland does a good job at keeping the ball out of the paint as the Cavs permit just 39.2 points to be accrued in the painted area. However, Love and Timofey Mozgov get bullied around in the paint too often.