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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets: game preview and how to watch

A play-in preview in Brooklyn?

It’s officially official: The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the play-in tournament. Tonight’s game against the Brooklyn Nets not only has huge implications on the standings, but it’s also a potential play-in first-round preview.

HOW TO WATCH

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (43–37) vs. Brooklyn Nets (42–38)

Where: Barclays Center – Brooklyn, NY

When: 7:30 p.m. EST

TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports App, NBA League Pass

Spread: Cavs +7

Opposing blog: Nets Daily

Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Lamar Stevens / Lauri Markkanen / Moses Brown

Cavs injury report: Collin Sexton (OUT - knee), Dean Wade (OUT - knee), Jarrett Allen (OUT - finger), Evan Mobley (QUESTIONABLE - ankle)

Expected Nets starting lineup: Kyrie Irving / Seth Curry / Kevin Durant / Bruce Brown / Andre Drummond

Nets injury report: Ben Simmons (OUT - back), Goran Dragic (OUT - Covid protocols), Seth Curry (PROBABLE - ankle)

Three things to watch

Darius Garland, (big) minuteman. Tuesday’s faceplant against the Orlando Magic was…unfortunate, we’ll say, for several reasons. Among them: If Darius Garland is going to play 40 minutes and the Cavs still lose? To the Orlando Magic?

Garland is the Cavs’ offense. Cleveland doesn’t currently have anyone else who can both consistently beat guys off the dribble and create for others. We’re just days away from win-or-go-home time; it’s imperative that Garland is at full strength. If he’s going to play such a high minute total, the Cavs had better hope he gets more help from the rest of the team.

(pre-) Playoff (/in) Defense. Let’s assume the Cavs come up against Brooklyn in the play-in tournament. Brooklyn has the Kyrie Irving/Kevin Durant duo, and the Cavs have one Isaac Okoro to defend them. Who do they throw him at?

The Cavs’ packed infirmary makes for a lot of moving parts. If Mobley can play, maybe Cleveland sticks him on KD? Mobley is more impactful as a sort of roaming anchor than perimeter deterrent, but this could free up Okoro to check Irving. If that’s not the move, do the Cavs trust Lamar Stevens enough to let him guard Durant? Whoever guards him might not matter all that much—even the basketball gods themselves probably couldn’t slow Durant much—but there’s one thing for certain: it cannot be Lauri Markkanen.

Lauri Markkanen bringing the April showers. Lauri Markkanen has had a turbulent first season in Cleveland. Covid protocols and injuries have limited him to just 59 games with just two left to play, and he’s made just 35 percent of his three-point attempts when he has played.

It’s early, but April is off to a promising start. Markkanen has made 11 of his 21 threes this month, good for a 52.4 percent conversion rate. He’s shot at least 50 percent from deep in each game on an increasing number of attempts, capped off with 25 points on 6 made threes against Orlando on Tuesday. Small sample size, sure, but if the Cavs can get this version of Markkanen alongside a fully healthy lineup? Look out.

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