Two steps forward, two steps back. After winning two straight games, the Brooklyn Nets have lost two straight games. Their latest defeat came at the hands of the Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors on the road Wednesday night. They haven't been able to go on a sustained winning streak yet and it's left them lagging behind.
Awaiting Brooklyn will be the Cleveland Cavaliers. With all of the changes made over the summer, the team is off to a more than respectable 14-10 start. However, they are coming off of a rough loss at home against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night. They might be looking ahead to their next game on Sunday afternoon. They host the 21-4 Memphis Grizzlies.
Where to follow
On the TV side of things, head over to the YES Network. For the radio listeners, tune in to WFAN 101.9 FM. Tip off is scheduled for after 7:30 PM.
Brook Lopez will be out for a little while longer. He's still dealing with a back injury and will be reevaluated on Saturday. Sergey Karasev (left oblique) is questionable. Both are in Cleveland.
Mike Miller plans to be back for this one. He's missed the last seven games, but passed the league's concussion protocol and took part in practice this week. Kevin Love was dealing with the flu last game, but he played and should play in this contest as well.
Let's check out what these teams have been up to:
Offensive Rebounding Rate
Free Throw Rate
Effective Field Goal Percentage
Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage
The Cavs won the first meeting 110-88.
Against one of the league's best offensive rebounding teams in the league, having Kevin Garnett will be essential. Garnett is the league's best defensive rebounder, and he will directly oppose the league's best offensive rebounder, Tristan Thompson. The other front court players, Mason Plumlee and Anderson Varejao, will look to control the glass. Neither of them can generate their own offense, but they work hard and can control the glass. Andy's minutes are at its lowest since the 2007-2008 season, but as long as he's healthy fir the playoff run, it won't hurt the team.
The third leg of Cleveland's big three, Kevin Love, has begun to round into shape. Assuming he plays, he should provide the Cavs with great floor spacing and another option from deep. As one would expect, his per game are drastically lower than what they were last season. However, his per game averages have stayed where they usually are. He's viewed as one of the league's best rebounders, but we should be a bit more specific and say he is one of the league's best defensive rebounders. His offensive rebounding percentage has decreased every season he's been in the Association. As you would expect, that decrease coincides with his three point rate rising every season he's been in the league.
If there's a positive aspect of getting blown out, it's that you have a perfect reason to give your key players a bit of extra rest. For LeBron James, that little bit of rest should do him some good. He only played 29 minutes against the Hawks, his second fewest of the season (the first, ironically enough, was in a blowout win against the Hawks). When the Nets last saw Bron, he was dazzling royalty at the Barclays Center. He's having a fine season, but when you're a player like him, fine won't cut it. He's starting to show the flashes of explosiveness he's known for, and when the Nets return to Cleveland on March 18, we'll have a more clear picture of James. In the meantime, Joe Johnson will match up with Bron. Johnson missed the first game with the flu, and his scoring ability ought to keep LeBron occupied. Double teaming Bron is always a risky bet, and with Miller scheduled to return, James will have one more option to utilize.
The guard play coming off of the bench figures to play a key role. He's the butt of many hilarious Twitter jokes, but Dion Waiters can be a solid contributor when he's on his game. He's not afraid to get his shot and can be a source of instant offense when the Cavs enter a drought. For the Nets, ex Cav Jarrett Jack has struggled recently. The combo of Jack and Alan Anderson has been awful, and Reed has more on that here. Lionel Hollins should look to limit their time together.
Player to watch: Kyrie Irving
In the preseason, I wrote this about Kyrie:
With new talent and a new deal, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Irving to play well this year. This is the most talented roster he's played with and there won't be any excuses made for him if he doesn't play as one of the league's best point guards. He's got the long term security players dream of so he won't be stuck answering leading questions from little kids. He doesn't have to shoulder the entire load on offense so look for his shooting percentages to improve as LeBron and Love will create a variety of good looks on the perimeter and driving lanes to the basket.
Two months in, he's excelled with his new running mates. He's averaging about 20 points and five assists on 46 percent from the field (37.5 percent from three point range) in almost 38 minutes a game. He's able to carry his team for long stretches, and his three point shooting works perfectly with Love and Bron. One of the criticisms Irving has faced throughout his young career is that he doesn't get his teammates involved in the offense enough. With LeBron, that criticism doesn't really matter all that much. Our friends over at Fear the Sword have more on that.
Kyrie has struggled since his big game at Madison Square Garden, and that should help out Deron Williams in their matchup. Since that game against the Knicks on December 4, Irving has only shot 39.5 percent from the field. Williams has undergone similar struggles. He hasn't shot above 40 percent from the field since December 3 against San Antonio. Irving has the safety net of James and Love in the event he goes cold, but Williams does not have that luxury, especially with Brook Lopez out. Irving has been working hard to shed his poor defensive rep, and this meeting with Deron serves as a nice challenge. Williams can post him up, but look for the Cavs to send doubles his way to throw him off. Williams will look to get his teammates going, but they've been cold in recent games.
From the Vault
Head back to the last time the Cavaliers were on the Christmas Day docket. Oh, LeBron and Kobe are there too.
More reading: Fear The Sword
- Brooklyn Nets: Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Cleveland Cavaliers Game Notes - Cleveland Cavaliers
- Nets-Cavaliers Preview - Taylor Bechtold - STATS LLC
- ‘Nonexistent’ Deron Williams takes blame for struggling Nets - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Nets rewind: Uh oh, Raptors found a Joe Johnson stopper - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Starting is now a 'Plum' role on the Nets - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- D-Will, Nets play small vs. NBA's big boys - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Nets’ Deron Williams seeks to get back in sync - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Plumlee is the lone bright spot for the Nets - Brian Erni - SNY Nets
- Nets’ Cory Jefferson making himself relevant - Andy Vasquez - The Record