Cleveland Cavaliers vs Los Angeles Clippers: Lineups, preview & prediction 3/9/18

LeBron James has been unstoppable lately and he will enter Staples Center looking to lead the Cavs to a third-straight win against the Clippers.

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For the first time since the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers (38-26) have an actual winning streak going. The Cavs outdueled the Denver Nuggets on the road to get the 113-108 win. LeBron James was brilliant as usual as he dropped another ridiculous line of 39 points, eight rebounds, and ten assists. Meanwhile, Larry Nance Jr. was also brilliant in his second game starting in place of the injured Tristan Thompson. Nance finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds, and four steals.

The Cavs continue their current six-game road trip with a visit to the Los Angeles Clippers (34-29), who saw their two-game win streak snapped at home by the red-hot New Orleans Pelicans. 121-116. Tobias Harris (27 points, ten rebounds) and Lou Williams (27 points, 11 assists) both came through with strong double-doubles, DeAndre Jordan dominated with ten points and 20 boards, while Montrezl Harrell went for 26 points and eight boards off the bench. However, it wasn’t quite enough as they had no answer for Anthony Davis, who went off for 41 points and 13 rebounds.

Three keys to the game

LeBron James – LeBron believes he’s playing at an all-time high at the moment, and it’s hard to blame him. He’s topped 30 points in five of his last six games and is basically a triple-double waiting to happen. He’s even rediscovered his 3-point stroke and is shooting an absurd 52 percent from deep in March. With the way he’s playing recently, the Clippers can only hope to contain the King.

Big man battle – Nance has been hands down the Cavs’ most impactful addition during their trade deadline shopping spree. The bouncy big man has provided the energy and athleticism the team has desperately needed, and his numbers upon moving into the starting lineup speak for themselves. However, he’s going to have his hands full against Jordan, who had a 20-20 game against the Cavs earlier in the season and has had 20 boards in two of his last three games.

Bench production – The Cavs have been getting steady but unspectacular production out of their bench unit recently. Clarkson hasn’t quite turned into the instant-offense sixth man they were likely expecting he’d be. Nevertheless, he had the rest of the Cleveland reserves need to turn in a team effort against the Clippers, who have two players in Williams and Harrell capable of wreaking havoc.

Matchup to watch

LeBron James vs Tobias Harris – James is basically a lock to get his numbers on a night-to-night basis. The Clippers can only hope to limit his damage and offset his production as best they can. Enter Harris,  who has been on quite a tear at the moment. The versatile forward has stepped up his game since Danilo Gallinari went down to injury, and he’ll need another fine performance against James if the Clips are want to come out on top against the Cavs.

Cavs projected starting lineup

PG – George Hill | SG – JR Smith | SF – Rodney Hood | PF – LeBron James | C – Larry Nance Jr.

Clippers projected starting lineup

PG – Milos Teodosic | SG – Austin Rivers | SF – Wesley Johnson | PF – Tobias Harris | C – DeAndre Jordan

Fantasy tip

Aside from James, Nance looks like the clear second-best option fantasy-wise on the Cavs. Nance is putting up an impressive 17.5 points, 14.0 boards, and 3.0 blocks in 35.0 minutes since entering the starting lineup. He has had some decent success in his three meetings with the Clippers during his time with the Lakers, averaging 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 1.0 block. With some added playing time, he should be able to post even better numbers.

As for the Clippers, Harris has been brilliant. He’s averaging an impressive 21.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 1.5 blocks in his last six games. The Cavs’ shaky defense should give him another good matchup to continue his recent hot streak.

Betting tip

Is it time to believe in the Cavs? Not quite. The defense remains a question mark, and even with James doing just about everything else, it’s still been costing them wins. The Clippers will be at home, have a strong offense, and will be highly motivated not to lose more ground in the Western Conference playoff race. Take the Clippers as one-point home favorites. 

Prediction

The Clippers cool off the Cavs as they get the 118-114 home win.

TV info

This game will be broadcast nationally on NBA TV, Fox Sports Prime Ticket and Fox Sports Ohio. Tip-off is at 10:30 pm Eastern.

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