The Brooklyn Nets had won five of seven coming into the night, and didn't slow down against the Cavs tonight. They protected their homecourt and kept playoff hopes alive with a 106-98 win.
Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark received over $10 million in compensation from the Cavaliers last year. The Cavs gave up a first round draft pick just to shed Jack's contract over the summer. Sure, the team wanted room for LeBron James. The team also wanted room between themselves and Jarrett Jack. He was great against the Cavs tonight, providing offense with his patented, and bewildering, midrange game. He scored 15 points and handed out five assists.
Earl Clark provided a spark for the Nets in the third quarter, scoring seven points. It was pretty crazy, but as a reminder to how rough last season was, it was oddly fitting. These guys might have helped sink the Cavs season 15 months ago, but they are out there fighting for their careers. I'm sure they have their reasons for why it didn't work out in Cleveland that go beyond their own failures.
The Cavs have now followed up emotional wins over the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and Memphis Grizzlies with disappointing road losses. It doesn't change the fact that they remain in the driver's seat for a 2nd seed in the playoffs. I thought the big three played with decent energy tonight. The Nets made shots. Irving couldn't get much going, which is crazy because he had 26 points on 22 shots. A lot of looks he would normally make, he just didn't finish.
Kevin Love missed some gimmes. James settled for long jumpers too many times. It happens. Both these guys had efficient stat lines, but never seemed like they had real footing in the game. J.R. Smith couldn't get on track. The offense has been really good for an extended amount of time. This doesn't change the fundamental trajectory of the team.
What was disappointing, though, was Kendrick Perkins entering the game before TristanThompson for a second consecutive game. His five minutes saw the Cavs get outscored by six points. Coming into tonight the Cavs were getting outscored by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in his 82 minutes. That will get worse after tonight. It was just five minutes, but Blatt staggered his minutes with James Jones, who also struggled. It led to a lot of game action where the Cavs could not pair Kevin Love with either Thompson or Mozgov, who combined for just 40 minutes.
David Blatt might be testing different lineups before the playoffs get going. I don't know. I want next to no Kendrick Perkins. I want 8-10 minutes of James Jones. I want more Kevin Love, more Timofey Mozgov, and more Tristan Thompson.