The Cavaliers are firmly in the “playing spoiler” portion of their schedule, and face a team in the Brooklyn Nets that could use a little momentum heading into their first postseason appearance in the last couple years. This is a team that is only 2.5 games ahead of the ninth seed, and several high profile returns have caused their chemistry to be thrown off.
This is a more winnable game than you’d think for the Cavaliers, but the Nets should be hungry to win.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (16-48) vs. Brooklyn Nets (33-33)
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
Enemy Blog: Nets Daily
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass
Cavs status updates: Tristan Thompson (OUT - foot soreness), John Henson (OUT - wrist), J.R. Smith (NWT), Ante Zizic (OUT - concussion)
Nets status updates: Treveon Graham (Doubtful - Back)
Cavs expected starting lineup: Collin Sexton, Brandon Knight, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Larry Nance, Jr.
Nets expected starting lineup: D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, TBD, Jarrett Allen
Three Keys to the Game
1. The Nets are rediscovering their identity
This is a team that had their style completely figured out midseason with injuries to Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. D’Angelo Russell elevated to All-Star status, and the team went on a tear. LeVert and Dinwiddie are back, and at their best will undoubtedly raise Brooklyn’s ceiling, but as of now, it’s a little bit awkward. They have to figure it out quickly, because right now, there’s a bit of dueling banjos going on.
2. D’Angelo Russell is probably going to eat...again
Russell has owned the Cavaliers this year, as most lead scoring guards that love playing the pick and roll tend to do. He’s averaged 28 points, 5.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists. I know that the Nets are trying to rework LeVert back into the lineup, and teams like the Cavaliers allow teams like the Nets to experiment a bit, but when it’s winning time, a Russell-Allen pick and roll will be hard for this Cavaliers team to stop.
3. Can Kevin Love help the Cavaliers young trio...get better?
Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman and Larry Nance Jr. have a net rating of -18.1 when they share the floor this season. That is absolutely atrocious, and even with all the mitigating factors of this season. Kevin Love’s biggest impact on the Cavs since his return has been his elevation of his teammates. The Cavaliers need to find a way to get the three members of their “young core” to lead to some positive on-court results soon. Love should expedite that.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Nets are good. The Cavaliers are not. That still seems to be a problem, but the Cavs ought to compete. Nets win this one 119-108.