The Cleveland Cavaliers should be getting some reinforcements back before taking on the Brooklyn Nets for the second time in a week. The Cavs were able to keep the game close last Wednesday despite missing five rotation players. We’ll see if the Cavs can close the gap some between the two teams with Jarrett Allen and Lauri Markkanen expected to play.
HOW TO WATCH
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse — Cleveland, OH
When: 7 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, NBA TV, Bally Sports App, NBA League Pass
Spread: Nets -8
Opposing blog: NetsDaily
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Lauri Markkanen, Jarrett Allen
Cavs injury report: Evan Mobley (OUT - sprained elbow), Collin Sexton (OUT - meniscus), Lamar Stevens (DOUBTFUL- right ankle sprain), Cedi Osman (DOUBTFUL - back spasms)
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 the Cavs crack 100 points? The Cavs haven’t broken the 100 point barrier since Sexton left the lineup on November 7th. Getting Markkanen and Allen back should give the Cavs a much needed boost offensively given the Nets’ interior defense.
The Nets have a solid defense (10th best defensive rating 104.5), but do not have a traditional rim protector with Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap splitting the majority of the center duties. As a result, opponents are attempting 31.2 field goal attempts within five feet (fourth highest in the league) and are finishing 60.8% of those shots. Conversely, the defense has done a good job of defending the three point line as opponents are shooting 31% from deep (3rd lowest in the league) against them.
The Cavs were able to keep the game close last Wednesday by getting 48 points in the paint and 13 second chance points. The Cavs will need to build on that success tonight if they want to steal a victory.
Can Isaac Okoro have a bounce back game defensively? The second year guard had a tough time keeping Steph Curry in front of him in the fourth quarter which led to the fourth quarter comeback for Golden State. Things don’t get much easier tonight as he will be asked to contain Harden tonight.
Kevin Love’s minutes. Love has looked solid offensively in his two games back. He is averaging 14 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists in just over 21 minutes of play. Those points are much needed off the bench for a team that is struggling to find scoring.
Despite the offensive production, the Cavs have been outscored by 16 points in the last two games when Love is on the floor. This is mostly due to him being asked to play the five defensively which has gone about as good as you’d expect. Love shouldn’t have to be the back up five with Allen back in the lineup. I would expect Ed Davis to get some run with the second unit given how well he filled in the last two games.
The Cavs need Love to continue to be the scorer he’s been off the bench, but they can’t get run over defensively. Fortunately, I don’t believe this is a huge concern long-term. Love and Mobley led lineups have been incredibly successful this season as the Cavs have outscored opponents by 20.1 points per 100 possessions in the 55 minutes the duo has shared the floor. Tying most of Love’s minutes with Mobley’s makes sense long term given the pair’s offensive talent and Mobley’s ability to cover up Love’s defensive limitations.
That said, the Cavs need to find a solution in the short term with Mobley out. Maybe pairing Love with Davis on the second unit can help.