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Wizards vs. Cavaliers Preview: Q&A with Fear The Sword

The return of Kyrie Irving, how the Cavs can counter the Wizards' small ball, and more.

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The Wizards and Cavaliers last met on December 1, when the Wizards delivered Cleveland their first (and still only) home loss of the season. Since that game, the Wizards are 8-9, most recently coming off a blowout loss to the Miami Heat.

The Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Verizon Center Wednesday night after rolling over the Raptors on Monday. During the Raptors game, Fear the Sword editor David Zavac was kind enough to answer some questions about how the Cavs' season has looked from their perspective, which you can read below. But first, the key info for Wednesday night:

Game Info

When: 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 6, 2016.

Where: The Verizon Center

TV: CSN Washington and Fox Sports Ohio.

Radio: WNEW 99.1 in the DMV, WTAM 1100 / 100.7 WM in Cleveland.

Injury Report

For the Wizards, Bradley Beal, Drew Gooden, and Alan Anderson remain out. Gary Neal, Nene and DeJuan Blair are day-to-day. The Cavaliers are expected to have everyone available.

Q&A with Fear the Sword's David Zavac

The Cavs have been at the top of the Eastern conference for most of the season, despite one of their big three (Kyrie Irving) missing 26 games. From an outsider’s perspective, that seems like a fantastic start to the season. But I get the sense from interacting with Cavs fans that despite all this early success, there is still room for improvement with this squad. Would you agree with that, and if so, what changes or improvements would you like to see the team make?

If you look at the league's net ratings, the Cavs are well behind the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. Timofey Mozgov was great last season, and has really struggled this year. Add to that the fact that Cavs fans haven't been able to see Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love play together a whole lot, and there's a bit of anticipation. Consternation would probably too strong, because the Cavs are playing pretty well.The offense, however, simply hasn't been as good as you might think. More consistency from Kevin Love, and Mozgov rounding into form would go a long ways. 

Speaking of Kyrie: How’s he looking? Obviously some rust is to be expected after missing that much time, but is he starting to look like himself again? How is the rest of the team adjusting to having him back on the floor?

The Cavs offense has taken off when he plays. When he's on the court, the Cavs have outscored teams by 21.1 points/100 possessions (heading into the Raptors game, where he is currently excelling). I know people like to talk about Irving not making his teammates better, but it's insane. In particular, he allows LeBron James usage to drop (down to just 22.8% when sharing the court with Irving thus far) to take more possessions off. He's a huge help.

As for how he's doing, his defense has really impressed so far. The shooting seems to be a work in progress.

I expected the Cavs to be an offensive powerhouse this year, but I’m a little surprised at just how good their defense has been (something like 3rd best DRtg in the league, compared to 20th last year). What do you think caused them to make such a big leap on that end of the floor?

Well I'm watching the Toronto Raptors shred them at the moment, but I think it's largely been Tristan Thompson and LeBron James, with a side helping of Matthew Dellavedova. James usually takes the regular season off on defense, but that hasn't been the case this year. The team's defense has been near San Antonio Spurs levels whenever Tristan Thompson has played. His rim protection has been world's better, and there aren't guys outside of Draymond Green who are more versatile on that end. Can it hold up? I'm not sure. But it's been the best surprise of the season. 

The Wizards had some success against the Cavs last month by playing "tiny ball", with Jared Dudley at center and Otto Porter at power forward. At the time, the Cavs didn’t seem to have a good answer. With Nene still hurt, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Wizards use that lineup again. How do you think the Cavs will adjust to counter?

More Tristan Thompson minutes. The Cavs have more functional guards healthy with Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert back, so they are better equipped to deal with the adjustment. Dellavedova has really struggled recently, so if he can hit open shots that's a big help. Thompson can get out on the perimeter with Dudley and still recover to provide a little bit of rim protection. Same with LeBron James. The Cavs have the bodies, I think. It'll be fun to see!

Many thanks to David for answering our questions. Follow him on Twitter @DavidZavac.