When: 7:00 pm EDT
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The Hornets have already played this Cavs team once, but this Cavs team isn’t quite the same as that Cavs team. They still trot out the wingless starting line up of Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen, but it’s been more effective. After giving up over 120 points in each of their first two games, the Cavs have dialed up the defense. Their defensive rating in the five games since is 97.3, second only to the Miami Heat in that span. They’ve won three of those five games, all of which came consecutively while holding their opponents under 95 points in each game. They’ve lost their last two since that win streak, but they’ve still been relatively stingy in the losses.
Where they’re winning on defense isn’t immediately obvious without watching their games (which I haven’t been). Despite their size, the Cavs don’t block a lot of shots, and they’re not particularly good on the defensive glass. They’ve been good-not-great at keeping opponents out of the paint and limiting their effectiveness when they get there.
As best I can tell, the Cavs improved defense is in large part to how well they’ve defended open and wide open 3-point attempts (read that how you will). In the last five games, Cavs opponents are shooting 29.1% from three on wide open looks. Their opponents’ effective field goal percentage on wide open looks anywhere on the floor is 48.1% in their last five games, fourth lowest in the league in that span. Maybe they’re doing something right to get those numbers, but maybe that’s just how the ball is bouncing right now.
The Hornets come in off a game in which they hit 20-of-42 3-pointers. They’re the best 3-point shooting team in the league so far this season, so they’ll try to break the Cavs spell they have over their opposition’s outside shooting. The Hornets definitely have the advantage in speed in athleticism, so they’ll need to utilize the fast break and the drive and kick game to neutralize the Cavs size. They’ve done it once, and they just need to repeat that performance to do it again.