Before the season began, one of these two young teams was expected to be on the rise and earn a playoff spot for the first time in a few years, while the other was projected to be one of the worst teams in the league. However, things haven't played out as planned, to say the least, and the tables have almost entirely turned between these two teams.
The Phoenix Suns are 24-18 and are currently the 7th in the standings of the rugged Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers have had a turbulent season, with an underperforming roster, chemistry issues (Dion Waiters reportedly aggressively confronted a teammate -- rumored to be Kyrie Irving -- in a players' only meeting earlier this season), and perhaps the worst rookie season in the history of #1 overall picks in Anthony Bennett.
However, the Cavs do have a great deal of talent, featuring the likes of Kyrie, Luol Deng, and Tristan Thompson, as well as a strong defense (one thing Mike Brown has always been good at). The Suns should win this game as they have clearly proven to be the better team, but they'll need to show up and can't by any means underestimate the opponent.
Who: Phoenix Suns vs. Kleveland Kyrieviers
What: Inter-conference matchup between two young NBA teams.
When: Sunday, January 26 @ 4pm AZ time (6pm EST/3pm PT)
Where: Cleveland. Fox Sports Ohio and NBA League Pass
Why: An electrifying point guard matchup: Goran Dragic vs. Kyrie Irving. Oh, and Anthony Bennett.
- Goran Dragic vs. Kyrie Irving: This is THE matchup everyone will have their eyes on. Kyrie, who was sensational in his first two seasons, is having a bit of a down year in Mike Brown's "system," but is still averaging over 21 points and 6 assists per game, and has been voted in as an All-Star starter in the East. Meanwhile, Goran Dragic is having himself a hell of a season and is finally starting to get some of the national attention he has long deserved. Will it result in his first All-Star berth? That remains to be seen, but I sure as hell hope so.
|2013 - Goran Dragic||39||34.8||6.9||14.0||49.2||1.3||3.6||36.4||4.4||5.6||77.6||0.9||2.4||3.4||6.1||2.8||1.3||0.2||2.3||19.4|
- PJ Tucker vs. Luol Deng: Luol Deng was having a great individual season for the Chicago Bulls before he was traded to Cleveland a couple weeks ago, and he has brought some defensive intensity and much-needed offense from the three spot to the Cavs. The Suns would like to have PJ Tucker (who I think is somewhat of a Deng-lite) play this matchup to as close to a draw as possible.
- Channing Frye & Miles Plumlee vs. Tristan Thompson & Anderson Varejao: This matchup of big men will be important to the success of their respective teams, as neither of these two pairs features a legitimate low post threat, but instead has guys help their teams in various other ways. Thompson and Varejao are both good defenders (each in his own way), and Frye and Plumlee will have do their best to not lose the rebounding battle.
- Dion Waiters vs. whichever Morris brother has a better game: Waiters has become the Cavs' 6th man as his game is perfectly suited to be a scorer off the bench, but he has once again struggled shooting the ball in his sophomore season. Moreover, it has become increasingly apparent that Waiters has a hard time coexisting in the same system as Kyrie Irving -- both need the ball in their hands to succeed -- and Waiters has been in trade rumors all season long. However, he is indeed a threat and the Suns can't let him go off. It's also important that Phoenix gets bench production of their own in this game, and one of the two Morris twins will need to step up and provide it. My money's on Markieff since he's been the more consistent of the two in the last couple weeks.
Prediction: The last time the Suns went on a road trip, they lost a few close games and had a disappointing stretch, going just 1-3. However, I think Phoenix will begin this road trip on a positive note by winning this game 106-100 behind the efforts of Goran Dragic, who will outplay yet another point guard that receives far more attention than him.
This is the first time I've made a game prediction and the result will dictate whether I continue making them or if I shut up and keep my foresight to myself.