The Cavaliers stumbled out to an early deficit against the Bulls before finally taking the game seriously enough to come away with a win. We could be in for a repeat experience against the weirdly plucky Nets on the second half of a back-to-back.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Brooklyn Nets
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena
Enemy Blog: Nets Daily
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Online: Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass
Cavs injuries: Isaiah Thomas (right hip - OUT), Derrick Rose (left ankle - OUT)
Nets injuries: Jeremy Lin (knee - OUT)
Three keys to the game
- So begins the long and arduous battle for the Cavaliers to ensure that the Nets first-round pick is as awful as possible. The Cavaliers play the Nets four times this season, and even though they almost certainly won’t, they should take these games very seriously. A stray win in October can dramatically alter ping-pong ball combinations in the draft lottery, and the Cavaliers obviously have an insanely vested interest in ensuring that the Nets pick high in the draft. This is the second half of a back-to-back, but they need to try in this one. If the draft lottery were today, the pick would have a 0.6 percent chance of being No. 1.
- The Nets are also coming off a game last night when they took an L vs. Orlando. D’Angelo Russell has looked revitalized as a lead option in Kenny Atkinson’s system, and it doesn’t appear that Jeremy Lin’s season-ending injury is going to tank them just yet. The Nets haven’t been afraid to run, and players like DeMarre Carroll and Trevor Booker have been super useful this young season. Even Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 14 points per game on 56 percent shooting.
- As good as the Nets are offensively, they’re bad defensively. Russell is a tire fire, Caris LeVert has length but is still young, Allen Crabbe is a disaster. Timofey Mozgov and Carroll just don’t have the legs to do it anymore. The Cavs should be able to generate good looks on that end of the floor. They just have to give more than a token effort to stop the Nets.
The Nets are fueled by Russell’s ability to push the pace and run the high pick and roll. The Cavs have to put up a wall and force the ball out of his hands. If J.R. Smith draws the assignment again, he’ll have to do the work in fighting through the screens and the Cavaliers bigs will have to be active in help. We’ll see if they actually do it.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavaliers need to to give a damn in this game and their history of doing so is not great. Nonetheless, they can and will probably sneak by Brooklyn with a 70 percent effort. Cavs 114, Nets 111.