Brooklyn returns home to face Cleveland

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

That was unexpected. Going into the third game of their three game road trip from hell, it didn't seem likely that Brooklyn would pull off the upset in Oklahoma City. However, a Joe Johnson buzzer beater made what seemed like an impossible dream a reality and Brooklyn got the win. Nothing has or will be easy for the Nets, and after this game, they play the Hawks, Warriors, and Heat at home before making the trip to Toronto. And after that, on to London!

Visiting Barclays this Friday night will be the 11-21 Cleveland Cavaliers. Compared to the game the Cavs won on Opening Night, the roster is dramatically different. Kyrie Irving was thought to have suffered a serious injury against the Pacers, but was diagnosed with only a knee contusion. He's out.. Also missing in action will be Andrew Bynum. He's been suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team." There's a lot to unpack here, and Kevin Draper did a great job of getting to it at The Diss. The Cavaliers are on the first night of a back to back, and will be getting out of snowy Brooklyn to return home and face the Pacers on Sunday evening. Ouch.

The season so far

What's the story with these two? Let's hit the numbers:

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Cleveland

Record

11-21 11-21

Pace

94.5 96.25

Offensive Efficiency

101.9 97

Defensive Efficiency

106.5 103.1

Offensive Rebounding percentage

23 26.2

Turnover rate

15.6 15.5

Assist rate

16.2 14.7

Rebound rate

48.2 49.8

Free throw rate

33.4 24.9

Effective Field Goal percentage

49.2 46.4

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

51.3 50.2

Good things happen when you put in a great effort on defense. Throughout the season, there's been poor focus, communication, & sometimes a lack of effort. Those issues have contributed to Brooklyn's status as one of the league's worst defenses. The Nets on average allow 106.5 points per 100 possessions, third worst in the league. A lot of their problems stem from their inability to defend the three point line. Net foes are connecting on 39.2 percent of their three point attempts, highest in the league. The Cavaliers are middle of the pack in terms of three point efficiency, but the Nets defense has been poor enough that teams not normally proficient from deep usually have big nights.

Deron Williams is dealing with another injury, but he's coming off a solid game against the Thunder. With Irving not in town, he should be in line for another good game. The Irving-Williams matchup is a marquee one, but since Kyrie is out, Williams will be dealing with Jarrett Jack & Dion Waters. Along with Williams, Pierce and Joe Johnson will need to continue to carry the offense. Despite what you may have heard, these three still have some value to provide to the Nets. For all of their troubles, Williams and Johnson have very good from deep. Along with Mirza Teletovic, they have been above average from three point range.

Irving's struggles could be why the Cavalier offense has been one of the league's worst. The All-Star guard has been committing fewer turnovers, but has seen his shooting efficiency decline for the third consecutive season. He's averaging 23 points and about six assists a night, but is shooting a career low 45 percent from the field. Surprisingly (to me at least), he's struggled finishing near the basket. I always pegged him to be a better finisher near the rim, but he's only shooting 55.6 percent inside of the restricted area. Maybe it's the injuries that are messing with him.

Brought in to help the Cavs make the playoffs for the first time since LeBron was there, Jarrett Jack hasn't been helping their cause. Dion Waters is on the trading block, but he's been pretty mediocre for the Cavs. He's averaging about 15 points per game, but he hasn't improved on his efficiency from his rookie season and is committing more turnovers. They're in the same boat as the Nets, and they will in all likelihood miss the playoffs (same goes for the Nets).

Player to watch: Anderson Varejao

Every season there are trade rumors surrounding him, and every season his play warrants the interest teams have in him. The big fella has maintained his normally above average play. He's playing seven fewer minutes this year than he did in his 25 game stint last season, but he's still averaging close to a double-double a night. He's not solely a garbage man, and his jumper has been very, very good this season. He's converted on 50 percent of his mid range attempts this season after making 41 percent last year.

He ought to have a big night. When he played Brook Lopez and the Nets last season, he had one of the best games of his career, scoring 35 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive glass (side note: I was at that game and the guys in my section were FURIOUS every time he snatched up an offensive rebound). Andray Blatche will probably be back for this game, but it's going to be very difficult for him to slow down Varejao on the glass. Kevin Garnett & Reggie Evans have been one of the better defensive rebounders in the league, but they can't be counted on to give you extended minutes of quality play.

From the Vault

Head on back to the 2007 playoffs and watch Jason Kidd do his thing.


More reading: Fear The Sword

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