After tonight, it’s a short respite for the Cavs through the All-Star break. But on their way out, they get a final test in a good Nets team. Let’s get into it.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (12-45) vs. Brooklyn Nets (29-29)
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, Ohio
Enemy Blog: NetsDaily
TV: Fox Sports OHIO, NBA League Pass
Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass
Cavs status updates: John Henson (OUT - wrist injury), Cedi Osman (TBD - ankle), Tristan Thompson (OUT - foot soreness), Ante Zizic (TBD - back), Kevin Love (OUT - rest)
Cavs expected starting lineup: Collin Sexton, Brandon Knight, Nik Stauskas, David Nwaba, Larry Nance Jr
Nets status updates: Spencer Dinwiddie (OUT - torn right thumb ligaments), Jared Dudley (OUT - hamstring), DeMarre Carroll (OUT - knee)
Nets expected starting lineup: D’Angelo Russell, Treveon Graham, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Jarrett Allen
Three keys to the game
- The Cavs have to defend three-pointers well. The Nets enter Wednesday’s game sixth in the league in three-point attempts and ninth in three-point percentage, per nba.com/stats. Specifically, the Cavs need to defend the left wing and corner well, as that’s where the Nets are at their best:
Brooklyn is great at coming off of screens and making teams defend through a maze of screens, so defending three-pointers will involve being disciplined and aware and organized. D’Angelo Russell is a skilled shotmaker too — more on him later. Let’s see if the Cavs are up to it.
2. How much will Kevin Love play? Love has played six minutes and 14 minutes in his first two games back. If the Cavs are going to be especially slow in taking him back, then it’s possible he may only play two quarters again or maybe play through the third quarter. If perhaps he’ll be deemed ready to play all four quarters, although jumping from 14 minutes to 30ish minutes doesn’t seem likely. What is clear, however, is that the Cavs will be better when he’s on the court — they are 5.5 points better with him on the floor in his first two games back. (Editor’s note: Love was ruled out after this article was published)
3. How will the newest Cavs play? So far, in limited minutes, Brandon Knight has made shots and looks like he might fit alright on the Cavs roster. Nik Stauskas looked like he might have been pressing a bit in his first game with the team, but missed most of his shots. Marquese Chriss looked athletic and mobile for his third straight game, but still made some plays that didn’t really make sense because that’s what he does. Assuming the remain part of Cleveland’s rotation, all three will need to contribute if the team is to win or remain competitive.
Collin Sexton has a challenge in front of him in D’Angelo Russell. In his first All-Star season, Russell is putting up career-best numbers across the board. He can make tricky shots, but is especially dangerous in the mid-range and from the left wing. Out of the pick-and-roll, he frequently looks for Jarrett Allen, so Sexton is going to have to read Russell correctly and look to see if he’s going for a pull-up or is looking to lob it to the high-flying Allen.
Odds are, this is a game Sexton will learn from when he watches the film. But if he rises to the occasion, maybe it’s a sign that defense is starting to make more sense to Sexton.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Nets are better than the Cavs. Maybe Love plays and it makes all the difference. But the Nets are probably just better. Nets 110, Cavs 101 as Cleveland goes into the All-Star break on a loss.
This article was updated to reflect Kevin Love being ruled out for Wednesday’s game.