Once again, I found fulfillment from the games not on National TV. ESPN has the New York Knicks going against the Atlanta Hawks at 8:00pm ET and Oklahoma City going to Los Angeles to face the L.A. Clippers at 10:30pm. I highly suggest watching both, as Atlanta has Jeff Teague (second in the league in assists) orchestrating a beautiful Atlanta offense, and OKC-LAC offers two Western Conference contenders. However, neither are the Game of the Night.
My GOTN? The Cleveland Cavaliers going to Minnesota to face Kevin Love and the Timberwolves. Not only are you getting Kevin Love, but you’re also getting Ricky Rubio vs. Kyrie Irving as well. The last matchup saw Cleveland beating Minnesota by two.
The T-Wolves are one of the modest surprises to start the season, starting 5-2, and making every offensive possession exciting. After questionable moves in the offseason, Kevin Love’s return has placed everything in perfect order. His rebounding presence (14.4 per game) removes any pressure off Nikola Pekovic, his scoring ability complements Kevin Martin, and his passing ability, especially on outlets, gives Corey Brewer an offensive role. Then, I look at the bench, and like those players as well. Dante Cunningham is a skilled combo-forward, J.J. Barea, while annoying most of the time, can score, and Derrick Williams is fun at times. After missing most of last season, it’s nice to see Kevin Love producing at this level, as well as push this Minnesota team to another level.
Moving over to the Cavaliers, everything starts and ends with Kyrie Irving. While he’s starting slow offensively, his sheer volume of controlling the ball has allowed him to average 19.9 points and 8.0 assists to start the year. Once the shooting numbers come around, the Cavaliers will be much more dangerous. After Irving, Dion Waiters is the second-leading scorer with 14.4 points, Tristan Thompson is a good, undersized rebounder, Anderson Varejao is always an interesting player to watch, and you might get an Andrew Bynum sighting in this game. All fun on the offensive end, but the defense is where the team improved. Thanks to addition of Mike Brown, Cleveland has started the season with a 98.1 defensive rating, good for eighth in the league, but he’ll need to kick the offense (93.8 offensive rating, 29th in the league) into gear.
Prediction: After losing the first game, I fully expect Minnesota to get this one at home. I say Kevin Love has a solid game (20-14), but Kevin Martin will be the team’s most valuable player. Minnesota 101, Cleveland 94
National TV: None
Regional TV: FSOH (Cleveland) and FSN (Minnesota)
Time: 8:00pm ET