Game 4 is at 6PM this evening. The first back to back test of the year against a potentially sneaky good Cavaliers team.
A few thoughts:
The Bench Must Rise. Last night we saw three starters log 40 minutes: Love, Rubio and Pekovic, with Martin also logging 35. As much as this 3-0 start has been a solid run, riding the starters that hard is not a sustainable strategy given the health history of the squad. With Turiaf and Chase being out for who knows how long, we need a spark. Given the team is on the 2nd night of a back to back, it would be pretty surprising if RA ran the same rotation. Dieng is quite likely to see his first set of meaningful minutes this evening, and it wouldnt surprise me to see Shabazz on the floor for a few as well. Ok, that would be surprising. RA was forthcoming about Gorgui being "nervous" against OKC, so perhaps he held out the young guys from the high-pressure situation of MSG.
Ideally, this would come in the form of Alexey Shved. In whatever time he has gotten thus far over the first three games, there aren't exactly a plethora of kind words to share. He has looked sullen, lost and has not been shooting the ball like the team needs him to.
Offensive Efficiency = winning basketball. Last night against the Knicks, the Kevins combined for 64 points on 31 shots. I can't even begin to describe how staggering this number is. What is even more remarkable is Kevin Martin had just twelve of those attempts and still managed to score a "quiet" 30 points. Ever since Martin first landed in Houston a few years back and Daryl Morey called him "the most efficient scorer in the league," that label has followed him ever since. It showed tonight. What makes it even more of a perfect match is combining him with the other Kevin, who puts up mid-high 20's in scoring when healthy and brings equal efficiency numbers to the table. Both players are superb 3-point shooters and also get to the free throw line at a high rate. Having two of the most efficient scorers in the league play together on a nightly basis is going to lead to some pretty staggering scoring runs that will be a blast to watch.
Sound D on the Wings = winning basketball. What has been a surprise this season, particularly vs. the pre-season has been the team's commitment to defense. Nearly every player has made positive defensive plays to start the year against two of the best scorers in the league in Anthony and Durant. Pek himself has been solid inside and Love's effort on the defensive end as well as providing team leadership have all been above average. Tonight vs. CLE the Cavs provide a bit of a different problem, a high scoring PG. The defensive strategy will have to change somewhat in order to contain him. The good thing is Kyrie has had a pretty rocky start to the year offensively. This trend could either continue into tonight or we could have a breakout game on our hands. I fear the breakout game. Keep him honest, sir Ricky. And helpers.
Tonight against the Cavs, I would expect the starters to be a bit gassed. 40 minutes of fast basketball, followed by a flight and another game the next day may lead to some sloppy shooting, and it would be surprising to see another hot start. The key is Rick finding a good balance of minutes in order to sustain the energy into the 4th quarter. However, If Martin and Love can put together another barrage of points, the Cavs may not be able to keep up.