Game Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs

Jan 21, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena. The Spurs won 118-115. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena. The Spurs won 118-115. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Antonio Spurs will begin their toughest week of the season by hosting the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at the AT&T Center.

The Spurs are about to have a very challenging week.

At the end of these next four games, the Spurs will have just six games left in their season, and the playoff picture will be as clear as ever. The Spurs will either be closer to capturing the number one seed, or farther away from it.

The Golden State Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies last night, increasing their lead over the Spurs to 2.5 games. The Warriors and Spurs will play on Wednesday night.

After the Warriors' win against Memphis, they are still tied with the Spurs for the best Defense in the league at 101.0 Pp/100.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 27, 2017

Until then, the Spurs will focus on LeBron James and the Cavaliers, who are looking to avenge their loss 118-115 to the Spurs back on January 21st in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers enter this game with a record of 47-25, barely good enough for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics are 48-26, percentage points behind the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers are 5-5 in their last 10, while the Celtics are 8-2.

James will try and rally his troops tonight in a hostile environment to get the Cavaliers back on track, and it’s up to the Spurs to not allow that to happen.

The Spurs are a 4.5 point favorite tonight vs the Cavs.

Iman Shumpert (right knee soreness) is listed as To Be Determined.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 27, 2017

The Spurs are coming into this game with an overall record of 56-16, 2.5 games back of the Warriors. The Spurs are on a four game winning streak, but it’s currently being overshadowed by the Warriors and their seven game winning streak.

Nevertheless, the Spurs have an opportunity to beat the Cavaliers for the second time this season, and pull within 2.0 games of the Warriors.

To do so, they are going to have to emulate their play from the first matchup.

First Matchup

Since the two teams are in different conferences, they only play each other twice a year. One of those meetings already happened, and it took until overtime to decide the winner.

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The winner ended up being the Spurs, 118-115. The Spurs were led by Kawhi Leonard, who scored 41 points on 15-of-30 (50%) shooting, including six rebounds, five assists, one steal and a one block. LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 16 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists. David Lee and Dejounte Murray had 14 a piece, and Patty Mills had 13 of his own.

The Cavaliers were led by James, who had 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting, six rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks. Kyrie Irving also poured in 29 points, along with nine assists and two steals. Tristan Thompson had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

The game was incredibly close. The Spurs shot 50% from the field, while the Cavaliers shot 49.5%. The Spurs shot 38.5% from beyond the arc, the Cavaliers shot 38.2%.

If there was a difference, it would be in two places. The first is the turnover category, where the Spurs had 13, in comparison to the Cavaliers having 18. The second would be free-throw shooting, where the Spurs shot 85.7%, while the Cavaliers shot just 54.5%.

Tonight’s Matchup

This game will include all of the same players, just in a different location.

For the Spurs to have success tonight, they will have to exploit the Cavaliers defense, who has been incredibly pedestrian since the all-star break.

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  • In their last three games, the Cavaliers are last in the NBA in defensive efficiency. For the entire year, the Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive efficiency, while the Spurs rank first.

    In their last three games, the Cavaliers are giving up 106.9 points per game, second-to-last in the NBA. For the year, they are also allowing 106.9, 22nd in the NBA. The Spurs, on the other hand, are allowing 98.4, second in the league.

    Offensively, the Cavaliers hold the advantage, scoring 110.5 points per game, fourth in the NBA. The Spurs are averaging 106.3 points per game, 12th in the NBA. In terms of efficiency, the Cavaliers are third, and the Spurs are fifth.

    However, a majority of those points come from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers are averaging 39.2 points from three-point range, second in the NBA behind the league-leading Houston Rockets.

    To win this game, the Spurs must slow the game down, and utilize their half-court offense to score easy buckets on a struggling defense. This efficient half-court offense will limit transition three pointers, something the Cavaliers are great at doing.

    Stopping James in transition is virtually impossible, so the best thing to do is eliminate those transition buckets completely. To do so, the ball movement has to be elite tonight.


    The Spurs are coming into this game on a four game winning streak. Specifically, the resurgence of Aldridge on the offensive end has given the Spurs offense an added dimension.

    This, in turn, is limiting the defenses ability to double-team Leonard. If the Cavaliers decide to defend one-on-one, the Spurs will have the advantage.

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    Additionally, the Cavaliers have struggled defensively as of late. Teams who struggle to defend tend to struggle against the Spurs, because the Spurs rarely make mistakes on the offensive end.

    The Spurs were also without Tony Parker and Pau Gasol the first time around. Gasol has proven to be a lethal weapon off-the-bench, and he should continue to see opportunities against a mediocre second-unit for the Cavaliers.

    Everyone will be focused on the James-Leonard matchup, and rightfully so, those are the best two-way players in the world. However, James is going to get his points, no matter who is defending.

    The key to defeating the Cavaliers is making James a one-dimensional scorer. James is at his best when he’s getting his teammates involved, not when he’s scoring at will. If he can’t get players like JR Smith, Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, and Thompson involved, the Cavaliers become one dimensional.

    With that being said, I think the Spurs will come away with a win tonight. The Cavaliers have slowly been getting their players back from injury, which means the continuity just isn’t there yet.

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    The Spurs have had their continuity in recent games, along with an aggressive Aldridge who should give Love a whole lot of a trouble tonight.

    Leonard and Aldridge both have 25+.

    Spurs edge out a close victory, 103-98.