SAN ANTONIO SPURS (42-28) vs. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (57-15)
|SPURS||Tim Duncan 18.2||Tim Duncan 10.3||Manu Ginobili 4.8|
|CAVS||LeBron James 29.8||Anderson Varejao 7.9||LeBron James 8.5|
The Spurs have played their best basketball of the season since late February and have won 10 of their last 14 games. They are currently seventh in the Western Conference with a five game cushion over 9th place Memphis Grizzlies and are two and a half games behind 5th place Phoenix Suns.
After a heartbreaking loss against the Atlanta Hawks in overtime, the Spurs bounced back with a gutsy win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Things were looking somewhat better for the Spurs until suffering a disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
They will continue to play their toughest stretch of the season as they face league leading Cleveland Cavalier tonight at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs are 9-4 for the month of March and are fighting for a higher playoff seed in the Western Conference. “Every game right now is important and big, the playoff race is close and we need every win that we can possibly get knowing that we have a tough stretch” said George Hill. Who is averaging 15.5 points and 4.7 assists in 10 games while filling in for the injured Tony Parker.
However, the matchup with the league leading Cleveland Cavaliers should be a tough test. Unlike their first meeting this season in Cleveland, LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are expected to be available on Friday night when the two teams face in San Antonio.
The Cavs are coming off a victory over the New Orleans Hornets where James had a monster game scoring 38 points, handing out nine assists and pulling down six rebounds. They will try to stretch their win streak to nine games when they visit the Spurs.
Anderson Varejao’s energy and rebounding will be a factor huge for the Cavs with Shaq O’Neal out due to injury. Delonte West has been solid as a reserve and played a key role against the Spurs in their first regular season meeting and James has been dominant lately. In the team’s last five games, he has averaged 28.6 points, 8.2 and 8.8 assists per ball game.
Earlier this month, the Cavs beat the Spurs 97-95. They lead the head-to-head regular season series against the Spurs since the 2008-2009 season 4-1.
KEYS TO THE GAME
On Offense: Coming off a bad game, expect Duncan to try to bounce back and play better basketball. The Spurs need to go to him early to establish his presence in the post. This will open up the lane and create more scoring opportunities for players like Ginobili, Hill and Richard Jefferson. Also, the shooters have to make their shots for the team to succeed.
On Defense: The Spurs will have their hands full with James back in the Cavs’ lineup. Players like Keith Bogans and Jefferson have to play tough D on him. A tall task for any player in the NBA. Plus the Spurs need to close out on the Cavs’ perimeter shooters.
On Offense: Obviously the Cavalier’s offense starts and ends with LeBron. If he gets in a rhythm early and gets other players involved, the Spurs are in for a long night.
On Defense: The Cavs’ rebounding, interior defense and Varejao’s defense on Duncan will be key for the Cavs.
SPURS: Tony Parker – Fractured fourth metacarpal, right hand.
CAVS: Shaquille O’Neal – Torn ligament in thumb.
Although the Cavs might be heavily favored in this one, expect a close game between the two teams with the Spurs prevailing 97-94. The Spurs will be looking to rid themselves of the “bad taste” from the recent loss to the Lakers.
With the team barely clinging on to the 7th seed, seems every game from here to the end of the regular season is a “must win game.” The Spurs will need every possible win they can get, let’s hope I’m right.