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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Miami Heat Game Preview: Return of the King
- Updated: December 25, 2014
“We could go to a small lineup, but also Tristan Thompson has been playing great basketball. It’s a chance for other guys to step up. Tristan has been playing like a starter coming off the bench. Anytime you have a guy like Tristan Thompson coming off the bench, you’re going to have a pretty good team.”
Thompson will likely fill the starting center spot until the Cavs front office decides what direction to pursue.
Likewise, the Heat are dealing with their own health problems. Josh McRoberts is out for the season, Dwyane Wade has missed significant time, and Chris Bosh has missed six games with a strained right calf. Indicative of their problems, the Heat have not won back-to-back games since November 23rd.
While the injury to Varejao is a serious hindrance to the Cavs end game, the team has been on a roll recently, winning four of the last five games during the Cavs’ five-game home stand.
The team’s performance has been good enough to put Coach David Blatt in the holiday spirit.
“I thought we had a pretty good homestand,” Blatt said after the win on Tuesday. “(It’s) not easy to win every game in the NBA. The guys responded very well to the moment.”
The Timberwolves game featured strong performances from all members of the Cavs’ “Big Three.” Between the three of them, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love recorded 73 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals, and three blocks.
Dion Waiters also continues his consistent improvement this season as Blatt was quick to compliment the young guard.
“I really liked what Dion did because he did struggle in the beginning. The fact that he came out, and gave us another really good game was really important. That kind of consistency, and performance, and approach was great for Dion and for us.”
Keys to the Game:
1. Avoid the Varejao/Christmas/Miami Return Hangovers
This will certainly be an emotional game for the Cavs. Varejao’s diagnosis, the Christmas Day away game, and LeBron’s first Miami return; all these elements make it easy to see how this team could struggle in this game. If the team can maintain their consistent play, they should be able to come home with a Christmas Day ‘W.’
2. Strong Performance from the Starting Five
While Varejao’s injury is certainly heartbreaking, the Cavs have surprisingly played better with Tristan replacing him in the lineup. This unit will certainly need to compensate for the further depleted bench unit that will now feature Lou Amundson and/or Brendan Haywood.
3. Contain Dwyane Wade
While he’s not the spry star he once was, Dwyane Wade can still draw “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd. With Bosh out, the Heat are certainly de-fanged but can still bite. If the Cavs let Wade showcase a throwback thursday performance, the Heat can make this a game.