Cavs Nation’s Matt Thomas

The Cleveland Cavaliers (1-3) look to shake off two straight losses to Western Conference teams in Denver against the Nuggets (1-3) tonight. Tip-off is 10:30 EST, at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. The past two games for the Cavaliers have certainly been a struggle, getting handled by Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers and daggered by Gordon Hayward’s buzzer beater that handed the Cavs an early season losing streak. ESPN and other sports media outlets have been thriving at the chance to take shots at the Cavs team chemistry, such as Brian Windhorst commenting about the relationship of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving being dysfunctional. One thing rest assured Cavs fans is that we are 4 games into an 82 game season, and there are still 78 regular season games left to play for the Cavaliers to find their way as a basketball team. LeBron James was quoted saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and he is right. This team has had a short 3 months to prepare for this upcoming season, and they are only going to get better as the year goes on. Look for a promising win tonight in Denver tonight against the Nuggets. With that being said, here are your projected starting lineups vs the Nuggets.

Cleveland Cavaliers

PG – Kyrie Irving
SG – Shawn Marion
SF – LeBron James
PF – Kevin Love
C – Anderson Varejao

Denver Nuggets

PG – Ty Lawson
SG – Arron Afflalo
SF – Wilson Chandler/Danilo Gallinari (switches game to game)
PF – Kenneth Faried
C – Timofey Mozgov

Go to the Next Page for Matchup Keys, Game Plans and Keys to the Game for what is a critical game for the Cavs to avoid an early road trip debacle.


Matchup Keys

Point Guard: Kyrie Irving will face off against Ty Lawson tonight at the Pepsi Center in what should be an interesting matchup. In 5 head to head matchups, Kyrie Irving has handily outscored Ty Lawson in all but one game, and the Cavaliers are 3-2 in those 5 games without Love and LeBron. Kyrie Irving should have something up his sleeve vs Ty Lawson, as both Point Guards are extremely fast with the ball, Kyrie is going to need to put on some extra moves or maybe free himself by having Andy or Love set picks on him. Ty Lawson also has some smooth dribble moves, and this should be the premier match up of the game.

Shooting Guard: Shawn Marion will most likely get the start again tonight and that is a good choice from David Blatt. Arron Afflalo is the Nuggets starting shooting guard and he is an excellent all-around player that can pass, shoot, dribble, and play defense. While Afflalo is a Swiss army knife of some sorts, his problem lies with perfecting one facet of his game. Shawn Marion should have no trouble keeping up with Afflalo on the defensive end of the floor, but Marion is limited offensively, so it will be interesting to see when David Blatt decides to use Dion Waiters. Waiters is certainly more offensively talented than Marion, so the 1-2 punch of Waiters and Marion should be very effective tonight.

Small Forward: The Nuggets like to rotate their two small forwards in the starting lineup on a game to game basis, so the Cavs could see either Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari. Either of these players should not be a problem for LeBron James, as he is more physical than Danilo Gallinari and much quicker than Wilson Chandler, that’s also without mentioning that LeBron is the best player in the world. Gallinari and Chandler are not to be taken lightly however, as Gallinari is a deadly threat offensively that can explode at any given moment in a game if left open, and Chandler is an athletic freak who is an agile defender with excellent size. LeBron James should not have a problem with either player though, and hopefully Danilo doesn’t cross him over this time..

Power Forward: Kevin Love will be up against none other than the Manimal, Kenneth Faried. Kenneth Faried has a motor unlike anyone in the NBA, and he is always ferociously fighting underneath the basket for rebounds and put backs. Faried is limited offensively and has somewhat of a weak low post game, but his energy and hustle make up for what he lacks in skill. Defensively, he’s a solid low post defender who has had some thunderous blocks against some premiere opponents. This should not worry Kevin Love however. Love needs to focus on stretching the Nuggets defense so it can allow him to post up on Faried in a one on one situation where Mozgov can’t easily slide over to help him. Love vs Faried will be a premiere matchup, but if Love gets early rebounds and hits his shots to get hot, he could be running Faried off the court.

Center: This is probably the least interesting matchup of the game, as Timofey Mozgov and Anderson Varejao are almost the same player. Both are excellent rim protectors that are very physical in the paint, and they are both solid rebounders. Offensively they are both limited to making put back shots and shooting from very close range. Varejao needs to establish a physical presence over Mozgov and the rest of the Nuggets in order to set the tone for the matchup and to disable Denver from getting baskets inside.

Game Plan

It is evident that the Denver Nuggets are going to want to establish their offense on the inside so they can create space for their deadly perimeter shooters on the outside. Look for Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo to drive the lane and feed Faried early so they can get some inside buckets, while at the same time allowing Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler to move freely to open spaces to create open shots. Denver is a relatively athletic and fast team, and their bigs do an excellent job of running the court.

For Cleveland, look to see more passing from guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, if anything has happened to them these past few days it has to be the pressing agenda to create space for themselves and set up open teammates. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters will still be aggressive, but the agenda needs to be to share the ball with Kevin Love, LeBron James, Tristan Thompson, and Shawn Marion. The Cleveland Cavaliers front office did a tremendous job putting together such a high caliber team, now it’s time for them to play like a cohesive unit.

Keys to the Game

The biggest key to the game for Denver is to come out fast and strong. Too many times this year the Cavaliers have opened up flat and teams such as the Jazz and the Trailblazers have shown them the consequences. Look for Denver to push the ball on the fast break and make the Cavaliers react to their game. With bigs that can run the floor, if Cleveland is unable to get back on defense Denver will tear them apart on the inside.
For Cleveland it’s simple: relax and run the offense and play a full 48 minutes of solid defense, then the results will show. These past few days have been tough on the Cavaliers with relentless media scrutiny, but just like LeBron said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Even if that day is not tonight, our empire will come soon. Kevin Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving need to further progress their cohesiveness as a unit while they are on the floor at the same time. Look for a great game tonight Cavaliers fans, I am excited to see how our Cavaliers respond on the road in Denver.