The shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers head on the road to take on the Brooklyn Nets. This game feels like a formality given the Cavs’ lack of bodies in the frontcourt. Let’s just hope the Cavs can get through this one with no further injuries.
HOW TO WATCH
Where: Barclays Center — Brooklyn, NY
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports App, NBA League Pass
Spread: Cavs +11
Opposing blog: NetsDaily
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland, Ricky Rubio, Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Kevin Love
Cavs injury report: Evan Mobley (OUT - sprained elbow), Collin Sexton (OUT - meniscus), Lauri Markkanen (OUT - health & safety protocols), Jarrett Allen (OUT - non-covid illness), Lamar Stevens (OUT - right ankle sprain), Kevin Love (PROBABLE - health and safety protocols)
Expected Nets starting lineup: James Harden, Patty Mills, Bruce Brown, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin
Nets injury report: Nic Claxton (OUT - non-covid illness), Joe Harris (OUT - ankle), Paul Millsap (OUT - personal)
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Can Isaac Okoro build on the offensive success of last game? Twelve points on 4 of 8 shooting with 5 rebounds and 3 assists generally aren’t something to write home about. That said, this was clearly steps in the right direction given how poorly things went last week.
Okoro is special on the defensive end of the floor, but he still needs to provide something offensively to be a positive contributor. His most NBA-ready offensive skill is attacking the basket as he’s finishing 70% of his attempts at the rim which is up from the 58% he finished last season. Okoro went 3 for 3 on shots at the rim on Monday and was able to draw two shooting fouls.
Being able to consistently attack the basket in the half-court is the quickest way for him to become passable offensively. Playing in a starting lineup with now Rubio and potentially Love, if he returns, could open up more lanes for him to cut or dribble drive. We’ll see if he’s able to keep the momentum going in the right direction and build off of what he did well against Boston.
The Cavaliers’ streaky shooters. It’s almost unrealistic to expect the Cavs to compete with this front line if Harden and/or Durant are on the floor. The only way they will be able to stay in this game, or any of the games with Mobley and Sexton out will be by getting timely shooting from one or more of their streaky shooters. Fortunately, Rubio, Love, Markkanen (when he returns), Garland, and Cedi Osman all have the ability to get hot from behind the arc for short periods.
Shooting is the great equalizer in the NBA. The Cavs haven’t been a great three-point shooting team this season (34.1% which is 18th in the league) despite some memorable outings from Rubio, Garland, and Osman. They will need to become a good to great shooting team if they want to stay competitive.
The Cavs will to win. The Cavs have been able to steal two games they had no business winning earlier this year through sheer willpower. They’ve embraced J.B. Bickerstaff’s next man up philosophy and have stayed competitive in every game except the loss at Phoenix. But we’ve never seen them this shorthanded before.
Nobody would blame the Cavs if they completely gave up on this game given the injuries and who they’re playing. But I don’t think this team will do that. At least not yet.
It’ll be interesting to see how much longer this team can buy into the next man up philosophy tonight given everything that’s going against them.