It hasn’t been an ideal trip to the West Coast for the Cleveland Cavaliers, as they dropped the first two games of the trip in Los Angeles to the Clippers and Lakers. Now, they’ll set their sights on the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night in a matchup that gives Cleveland a nice chance to break their slump. However, Phoenix is more than capable of pulling off an upset if the Cavs come in sleepwalking.
The Cavs will be starting Kyle Korver tonight at the two-guard, as head coach Ty Lue has benched JR Smith and he will now come off the bench. According to cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon, Smith might be taking on a new role for the remainder of the season. What that means for right now, no one is quite sure. For now, it means Smith will look to generate points in a hurry with limited minutes. He’s been a sixth-man before with Denver and New York and even earlier this year with Cleveland, so the concept isn’t anything new to him.
In other news, guards Rodney Hood and Cedi Osman remain out for Cleveland.
Phoenix will get back star guard Devin Booker along with rookie Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren tonight for the late-night clash, giving the Suns their normal depth at the positions. For the second-worst team in the NBA and losers of their last five games, the Suns are just looking for some positives near the end of the season. At this point, it’s building towards the future.
With that being said, let’s get to the three keys for a Cavs victory out west:
1. Spacing- Spacing will be very key for Cleveland tonight, especially with Kyle Korver playing at shooting guard. With a lineup that features Korver, George Hill, Larry Nance Jr., and Jeff Green around LeBron James, it’s apparent that the amount of shot-creators in the starting unit is slim. With that being said, tonight could be a revelation without anyone expecting such a development to occur.
LeBron will have a bunch of three-point weapons to use in his arsenal tonight and will definitely take advantage. If the shots start falling from behind the arc, look out. Tuesday’s experiment could turn into the best thing the Cavs have done this season regarding a starting five. And though Rodney Hood will regain his starting role, one must wonder how tonight’s shakeup will impact future plans.
2. Contain Devin Booker- Easier said than done, understandably so. It’s no secret how good the third-year pro out of Kentucky is. Phoenix knows this and so does the rest of the league.
Averaging just over twenty-five points per game over fifty-two games, Devin Booker has become a real problem for opposing defenses. He has a knack for shooting the lights out from behind the three-point line and can also finish at the rim with incredible athleticism on display. He’s one of the best young talents in the NBA and guarding him is no easy task. But expect George Hill to put some pressure on him and make him make feel uncomfortable. Hill’s defense is one of the great things about his game and he’ll put that on display tonight against a Suns team that goes as far as Booker goes offensively.
3. Effort- Something that hasn’t been seen on this road trip has been effort. It was a problem to start the year, then again when Isaiah Thomas joined the starting lineup, and it is a lurking problem once more for Cleveland. The team just doesn’t seem to want to get up and play these games right now if they don’t have a big-game feel to them and that can obviously be a problem come the playoffs.
It would be nice to see the Cavs do the little things right tonight: Close out, box out, rebound the first time, finish the easy baskets. Sometimes, that can be enough to keep a team in a game before factoring in talent. With the talent Cleveland currently has on the roster, a little effort would definitely help them win some of these monotonous games on lengthy road trips or even home games against the bottom-feeders of the NBA.