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Nets try to pull off the upset vs Cavs

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"Playas get their paper when their game is tight, & if you want some nana that's for you to decide..."
"Playas get their paper when their game is tight, & if you want some nana that's for you to decide..."
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Two straight. The Nets built on their Saturday night victory over the Sixers and beat up on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night. They got a bit of help from the Utah Jazz after they beat the Charlotte Hornets by 28 points and the Toronto Raptors after they embarrassed the Indiana Pacers, but Brooklyn is still on the outside looking in. It's not an impossible task, but the Nets are gonna need a lot of help to sneak into the playoffs.

Awaiting the Nets will be the resurgent Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs got off to a bit of a bumpy start to begin the year, but that's water under the bridge at this point. They've gone on an amazing run over the past couple of months and are firmly in the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They were on a four game winning streak but got stomped out by the Heat on Monday. It happens.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for TV, WFAN 101.9 FM for radio. Tip-off's after 7 PM.

Injuries

Everybody's that able to play can play for the Nets.Of course, Mirza Teletovic and Sergey Karasev are done for the season.

LeBron James is dealing with a knee injury so he might take the night off. Kevin Love didn't play on Sunday and Monday so he could get some extra rest for his back, but he should be good to go tonight.

The game

What's the story? Let's get into it:

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn Cleveland

Record

27-38 43-26

Pace

94.79 94.89

Offensive Efficiency

100.6 107.9

Defensive Efficiency

104.4 104.4

Turnover Rate

15 14.6

Assist Rate

16.1 17

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.9 26.8

Rebounding Rate

48.9 50.8

Free Throw Rate

26.8 29.6

Effective Field Goal Percentage

48.8 51.6

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

50.1 50.1

The Cavs won both matchups in December.

The Nets will be trying to tie their longest winning streak of the season. They've won three straight games on three occasions (December 21-26, December 29-January 2, and February 2-6). One of the frustrating things about the Nets this year has been their inability to string together an extended streak. Now would be the perfect time for Brooklyn to pull off a big run. With the exception of three nights (march 29 against the Lakers, April 1 vs the Knicks and April 15 against Orlando), every game from here on out will be against a team that's already in or competing for a playoff spot.

The Cavs are looking mighty different from when the Nets last saw them in mid December. In a pair of trades, they picked up Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert, and J.R. Smith. They sent out Dion Waiters and some first round picks, but that's the cost of business and if the Cavs can win the Championship, it'll be more than worth it.

Even if Bron takes the night off, the Nets will have an incredibly tough time dealing with Kyrie Irving. Irving has had an amazing season and owns the two highest individual scoring marks this year in the NBA. Coming into the season, a lot of people (myself included) had questions about Kyrie. Fear the Sword's David Zavac spoke to me about them and also provided some needed context to Kyrie's first couple of years in the Association. He told me:

But mostly, I just think the Cavaliers, to this point, have done everything they possibly could to make his life difficult. He genuinely put together one of the great rookie seasons of all time (his numbers were that good) and what did the Cavaliers do? Drafted a ball dominant guard in Dion Waiters. They waited another year before investing in free agency. Who was the first guy they have multiple guaranteed years to? Jarrett Jack, ball dominant guard. In the meantime, his pick and roll partner has been Tristan Thompson most of the time, and the Cavaliers haven't had anything approaching shooting on the wing. I'm kind of amazed Kyrie has been as good as he has been. Oh, and noted offensive expert Mike Brown was his head coach. The organization just didn't do him any favors.

Is his defense good? Absolutely not. It's bad. But this is going to be his age 22 season, and I actually thought I saw him improve a bit on that end last season. This is a big year for him. We will see what he does.

What he's done is averaging 22 points and five assists while setting career highs in field goal percentage and minutes per game while committing even fewer turnovers than usual. On a superficial note, he's fun to watch when he's at his best. Deron Williams will be the one matched up with Irving. Deron's had an iffy season, but all will be forgiven if he can go on a big run to close out the season.

Mozgov has been exactly what the Cavaliers needed on defense. Interior defense was an issue for Cleveland in the first two months of the season, but that hasn't been a problem when Moz is on the court. Opponents are only shooting 45.2 percent at the rim against him since he joined the Cavs. Brook Lopez will be dealing with Mozgov throughout the night. Lopez had an excellent night against Minnesota, but he'll be facing much tougher competition here. Brook has gotten a lot of looks near the rim in the second half, but is shooting a ghastly 48.6 percent inside of eight feet.

Player to watch: J.R. Smith

Seriously, J.R. has been good for the Cavs. Since the trade, he's upped his field goal percentages and has been a net positive. He's even out here making extra passes! He's always a risk to shoot your team out of a ball game, but when he's on his game, he can get hot from three point range and make teams suffer for leaving him open as they chase LeBron and Kyrie around.

For tonight, Bojan Bogdanovic figures to see a lot of time at the two guard. Bojan had arguably his best game of the season on Monday, and if he wants to see some more minutes, he'll need to continue playing like that. Markel Brown has played since joining the starting lineup and will spend time covering Bron (if he plays) and Smith.

From the Vault

It's NCAA Tournament time, and with that in mind, we're headed back to the 2008 Final Four between Memphis and UCLA. Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, and Russell Westbrook on the court at the same time? We can do that.

More reading: Fear The Sword