The Cleveland Cavaliers will welcome the Brooklyn Nets to The Land on Monday night on the heels of a nice win over the reeling Portland Trail Blazers. One would have been forgiven for assuming that the Blazers would have been one of the more exciting, and good, teams to visit Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse this season, but they certainly didn’t bring that energy Saturday.
Similarly, but from a different vein, now comes this matchup with the Nets. If their new free agent signing Kyrie Irving were healthy and ready to play, we may have had one of the first opportunities to really start moving beyond the bitterness of his trade request. Instead, he’s hurt and this game is a lot less interesting. Add in the fact that Caris LeVert, a potential Cavs target at some point even if he signed a contract extension, is also hurt and you’ve got quite the bummer.
Of course, the Cavs are coming off a nice win, and the Nets run a modern offense and play hard. They’re a bit better than the Cavs, probably. It’s another opportunity for the Cavs to continue implementing their system and look for development from their young players. We’ll see if Kevin Love is back after a night off — it would help.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (5-11) vs. Brooklyn Nets (7-8)
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse — Cleveland, Ohio
Where on my eyeballs: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
The Nets are sort of what the Cavs want to be: building the right way, taking lots of threes, competing every night. They were a surprise team last season, and a lot of their fans enjoyed growing organically. Of course, then they added Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan. There have been growing pains — Irving was scoring like gangbusters before he got hurt, but the team wasn’t quite sure how to operate around him. That’s fair. We’ll see how long his hometown fans stick with him.
With LeVert and Irving hurt for most of the year, the minutes leader for the Nets is ... Joe Harris. He was a Cavalier that was jettisoned off in the year the team won the title. He was hurt and hadn’t caught on, so the fact that he’s become valuable isn’t a big indictment on the Cavs. He should be a nice fit offensively with Durant and Irving, but they might be challenged defensively. They’ll have to figure that out next year. In the meantime he’s one of the better shooters in the league. Spencer Dinwiddie has provided volume scoring, and they’ve been able to go back to what brought them some success last season. It’ll be a fun test.
From the Cavs perspective, they need to find ways to create offense that doesn’t involve Tristan Thompson as a post scorer. He’s done a pretty good job, but it’s just not what you want to see. Darius Garland and Collin Sexton need to a better job distributing instead of just dumping it into the post. Cedi Osman did a nice job of this in the second half against the Blazers. While the team was bailed out by instant offense from Jordan Clarkson, it’s hard to bank on that sort of efficiency continuing.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavs defense has broken down recently against good ball movement, and I think the Nets will be able to do a bit of that. Let’s say 101-97 Nets.