Opponent: Cleveland Cavaliers
Leading Scorer: Collin Sexton/Tristan Thompson (16 PPG)
Leading Rebounder: Kevin Love (18 RPG)
Leading Assists: Darius Garland (5 APG)
Biggest Challenge: Rebounding
The Cavs roll with a three-man frontcourt rotation of Thompson, Love and Larry Nance Jr., who combined for 43 rebounds in their season-opening loss to the Orlando Magic. Myles Turner is a notch below them as a rebounder, although he’s looked improved in that department compared to last year, and any lineup featuring T.J. Warren or Justin Holiday at power forward will struggle in rebounding. In their loss to the Detroit Pistons, the Indiana Pacers got out-rebounded 45-36. An answer to this might come from Indiana’s guards, Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb, who vastly outsize Cleveland’s dual-point guard backcourt of Sexton and Garland.
Biggest Advantage: Backcourt Size
Sexton and Garland are both 6’1’’. Brogdon and Lamb are both 6’5’’. These two should be able to get open looks all game just from size alone. Defensively, Garland and Sexton are one of the fastest backcourt duos in the NBA, but if Indiana can limit their fast break opportunities, then their backcourt length will be a problem in the half-court setting. As mentioned above, this should also help counter Cleveland’s strong rebounding frontcourt.
Brogdon is a plus-defender, but has shown he can struggle with small, quick guards. Can he consistently stay in front of Garland and Sexton? The duo combined for six turnovers in their first game together, but that number may increase if Brogdon and his large frame can disrupt them on-ball in the half-court. Offensively, he should be able to use his size to his advantage and get opportunities shooting over them.
The Cavaliers have the foundation for a bright future, but they are arguably one of the worst teams in the association right now. The Pacers proved to struggle in late game scoring without Victor Oladipo against the Pistons, but that shouldn’t be an issue this game. If the Pacers find themselves in a dogfight with this Cavs team, then this becomes a bigger issue than just “working the kinks out.”