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Clutch Feed: Cavs look to maximize role players against Clippers

Gary A. Vasquez | USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview:

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STARTING LINEUP CHANGE:  Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love will all rest tonight. The projected starters will be Deron Williams, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and Tristan Thompson.

UPCOMING MILESTONES:  If the Milwaukee Bucks lose to the Golden State Warriors tonight, a win for the Cavaliers against the Clippers will clinch a playoff spot. Kyrie Irving needs nine more three pointers to hit 700 total in his career. In addition, J.R. Smith needs four more threes to have hit 400 for the Cavaliers.

After a stretch of three straight losses, the Cavaliers have been able to win three of their last four games, including a 91-83 match against the Utah Jazz on Thursday. As they head out West, they look to face the L.A. Clippers, who are currently fifth in the Western Conference with a record of 40-29. Despite their standing, they’ve been struggling as of late, dropping three straight games coming into tonight’s game, with their most recent loss coming against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, where the Clippers fell 129-114. While the Cavaliers are still aiming to keep the first seed if possible, all they need to do in order to have a possible path to the Finals three years in a row is to clinch a playoff spot, which they can do tonight if they win and the Milwaukee Bucks lose.

The first time these teams met this season, the Clippers came out on top 113-94 in Cleveland on December 1st. Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 28 points, while JJ Redick led the Clippers with 23. DeAndre Jordan managed to secure 15 rebounds – including 8 offensive boards – as the Clippers outrebounded the Cavaliers 47 to 36. In total, due to rebounding and the Cavaliers’ 18 turnovers, the Clippers shot 20 more shots during the game. As a team, the Cavaliers had previously won four straight against the Clippers before their loss in December.

The Clippers can deal damage from the field, as they currently have the fifth highest field goal percentage – 47.0% – and the fifth highest three point percentage – 37.6%.  In fact, DeAndre Jordan current has the best field goal percentage in the NBA with 70.2%, which his 4.6% higher than the second best. Their shooting within the restricted area and on mid-range shots are both fourth highest in the league, at 63.3% and 43.0% respectively. A good deal of their points come off of pull up jump shots – a league high 24.8 points per game. The Cavaliers will have to put on a defensive showing in order to slow down their highly efficient offense – they cannot afford to slack off anywhere on the court. Despite their offensive abilities inside, they give up the fourth highest opponent shooting percentage on shots within five feet of the basket – one weakness the Cavaliers can look to exploit.

Key players to watch for on the Clippers will be Blake Griffin (averaging 21.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game), Chris Paul (averaging 17.7 points and 9.3 assists per game), and JJ Redick (averaging 14.7 points per game).

Tipoff is set for 8:30 EST and will be broadcast on ABC.

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