Los Angeles Clippers at Cleveland Cavaliers
Quicken Loans Arena
4:30 p.m. PST
December 7, 2013
FOX Prime Ticket/NBATV
1. Where does Kyrie Irving rank among the best point guards in the NBA?
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): Fifth, at best. We can firmly put Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook ahead of him. He’s in the next tier with John Wall, Ty Lawson, Mike Conley and Damian Lillard, though he’s probably the best among those. Irving’s shooting efficiency has taken a slight step back from last season, but I expect him to return to form.
Jacob Frankel, (@jacob_frankel): Top seven. He’s taken a step back this year on a horrendous Cavs team but still stays firmly entrenched near the top of the point guard list. He’s a lights-out shooter off the dribble or spotting up and seems to get to the rim at will. His defense has been an issue, but that should right itself with more NBA experience.
Aaron Fischman, (@aaronhartf): He was right up there with the very best before taking a noticeable step back this season. It’s an awfully crowded field, but Irving still ranks in my top 10, if only narrowly. He’s a shoot-first point guard, as a lot of guys are nowadays. The only problem is that this season, Kyrie’s shooting has dipped significantly. The infighting and losing can’t be helping his individual play.
2. The Clippers are a top-five team over the past two weeks in defensive efficiency. Why is that?
Buha: Antawn Jamison. No, seriously. By virtue of not playing Byron Mullens, the Clippers have gotten A LOT better defensively. Also, I think catching two struggling offenses (Chicago and Memphis) without their best offensive players helped skew their defensive rating.
Frankel: They haven’t exactly played a murderers row of opponents, but there has been real improvement. I especially like the chemistry between Griffin and Jordan when it comes to switching back and forth between big men on pick and rolls.
Fischman: Over the Clippers’ last seven games, the Clippers haven’t played a single offensive juggernaut, but they have played Chicago (24th in offensive efficiency), Memphis (21st), Sacramento twice (20th), as well as Atlanta, Indiana and New York, all three of which rank in the middle of the pack offensively. That’s not the only reason, though. I have to believe that the guys are starting to gel under Doc’s system.
3. What’s the key matchup in this game?
Buha: Dion Waiters vs. the Clippers’ bench, for memory’s sake. Last season, Waiters torched the Clippers with 28 points (7-for-11 on threes) in the Cavaliers’ surprising 108-101 road win. He’s shooting even better this season, which doesn’t bode well for L.A. given the fact that they have no credible stoppers on their second unit.
Frankel: Andrew Bynum vs. DeAndre Jordan. Jordan can be bullied in the post and Bynum is absolutely massive. He’s in the middle of his best stretch of season too, when he’s dominated the likes of Joakim Noah on the block.
Fischman: Multiple. Waiters against the Clippers’ two-guards. Remember his fourth career game? Waiters served up 28 points at Staples, including making seven of his 11 shots from deep. Thompson vs. Griffin because of Thompson’s crazy win-loss splits this season. Coming off possibly the worst game of his career last night, how will Irving perform against Paul? Finally, can Jordan, Griffin and company keep Bynum off the offensive glass, where he wreaks so much havoc?