When the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Brooklyn Nets on Opening Night, I was pretty excited. The Nets are a very talented team, with lots of veterans and high expectations. The Cavaliers added a bunch of pieces during the offseason, hired a new coach, and were expecting some solid improvement from their young players. Andrew Bynum made a surprise appearance and looked relatively healthy in limited minutes. There was plenty of reason to think that the Cavs were going to be much improved and deliver an exciting season after several seasons of awfulness. I was so young and so naive.
Just a few months later, the Cavs have won just 10 more games and sit at 11-21. What we thought was an impressive win against a veteran team turns out to be the direct opposite. The Nets are somehow even more disappointing than the Cavs and hold an identical 11-21 record. Tonight, these two teams will meet again to see who can let their fans down the most.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (11-21) at Brooklyn Nets (11-21)
When? 7:30 PM Eastern
Where? Barclays Center -- Brooklyn, NY
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio / NBA League Pass
And despite all of that stuff about how terrible these two teams have been, they both have something to play for. Because they exist in the Eastern Conference, nobody is truly out of the playoffs. Like, ever. You just know that both teams are in their locker rooms before this game talking about how they could use a win here as a jumping off point for the rest of the season. If the Charlotte Bobcats lose tonight, whoever wins this game will be 1 game out of the 8th seed in the East. And that's just ridiculous.
As you probably know by now, the Cavs will be playing without Kyrie Irving again tonight. He did not travel with the team, staying in Cleveland to receive more treatment on his left knee contusion. Jarrett Jack will likely start for the Cavs again.
I don't have a whole lot to say about the Cavs after that hideous win over the Orlando Magic, so I talked to DennisVelasco from NetsDaily to get some info about our opponent. I answered some questions for them about the Cavs, so be sure to check that out as well. Here's our exchange about the Nets:
Fear the Sword: On a scale of done to totally done, how done is Kevin Garnett?
Nets Daily: I don't know, part of me is still holding out hope that he actually needs to play MORE minutes and not LESS. I understand having to save him for the postseason, but that assumption may be an erroneous one, even in the less than stellar (understatement) Eastern Conference. Clippers head coach, Doc Rivers, mentioned the fact that KG needs to play more and Garnett himself has hinted at it, so that he can get into a rhythm. His usual make from the elbows and straight up at the free-throw line aren't even close to snapping the twine with regularity as in the past. That's been horrible. He's also made some boneheaded plays on defense, particularly in the beginning of the season. So, how done is he? I'd say he's at the lower level of done because I can see glimpses of "the old" KG, but "old" KG is still rearing its ugly head. Again, I do have some hope. Just call me a masochist.
FTS: Who is assuming a larger role on offense for the Nets now that Brook Lopez is out? How are they doing?
ND: I was hoping it would be Andray Blatche, but he missed the recent road trip due to personal reasons. And, he's still enigmatic, so it's hard to sincerely judge what's going on with Dray. He definitely has tons of potential still. Mason Plumlee has come on when his athleticism was needed. Kind of hoping Mirza Teletovic gets a bit more burn again because he's shown that he can come through and produce when given the minutes. But, I think the win over the Oklahoma City Thunder has shown us that Deron Williams will, and should, be the guy that steps up his game offensively. If head coach Jason Kidd keeps using the starting backcourt of Shaun Livingston and D-Will, it allows D-Will to move more without the ball and get in positions to score. The benefit of two point guards on the court is a great idea to me and worked wonders for the New York Knicks last season. So, yeah, D-Will. He'll need to stay healthy himself, however. Last season's post All-Star break production could be something that he achieves once again. I hope.
FTS: What (besides Joe Johnson's ridiculous clutchness) allowed the Nets to steal that win in Oklahoma City? Is any of that repeatable for some sustained success?
ND: The team actually played some pretty good team defense, especially collapsing on Kevin Durant when he drove to the hoop. It's definitely something that they can sustain because defense is really about desire. For this whole season, except for the Miami Heat game early in the season, the Nets have lacked passion and fire. The only emotion you could really see was either depression or disappointment. There's been a lack of direction all season and that leadership we all expected from Garnett and Pierce has been missing because they haven't performed up to par themselves. But, seeing the whole team bum rush Joe Johnson the way they did after his game-winning shot over Serge Ibaka, shows me that that game could be a turning point. Seriously, there's still talent here on the Nets and it'll just be a matter of finding their path and an identity. I think it can happen.
FTS: If Andray Blatche were a cartoon character, which would he be?
ND: Inspector Gadget. Easy. Blatche has a bunch of tools to use at his whim, but he doesn't always use them correctly and bumbles around. He has well intentions, but doesn't really get to learn anything from his mistakes because, in the end, it's happened enough where he came out well from situations. Just because he can shoot threes, doesn't mean he should do it all the time. Just because he has a nice behind-the-back crossover, doesn't mean he should then stop and pop when he has a lane to then drive to the rim. But, sometimes he hits that shot. His long-twos kill me! But, then you'll see him hit two Js from the stripe with ease and you think, okay. You see him face up a man, do a little Hakeem-style post movement, and you'll go, alright! Just like inspector Gadget, Dray succeeds kind of by accident.
So there you have it. Are we really going to let the Cavs lose to Inspector Gadget? I don't think so.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction:
The Cavs will probably lose. They aren't very good in general, they're even worse on the road, and they're even worser without Kyrie Irving. Also, here's a stone cold lock for a prediction:
Thing I just realized: There's a 100% chance that Kevin Garnett gets in some sort of scuffle with Matthew Dellavedova tonight.— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) January 4, 2014