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Nets ‘Big Three’ make debut in Cleveland

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New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Hey man, that was some GOOD friggin’ NBA basketball! The Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks played the game of the year on MLK Day and the Nets pulled it out in the final seconds. The win was Brooklyn’s fourth win in a row and it looks like it’s starting to come together in a major way.

The opponent tonight will be the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs won their last game on Friday night, a three point triumph over the New York Knicks. More on the reason why they’ve been out in a few.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:30.

Injuries

Spencer Dinwiddie and Nicolas Claxton are out.

Kevin Love, Matthew Delladvedova, and Dylan Windler are out. Collin Sexton and Darius Garland are both questionable.

The game

We’re gonna start with something off the court. Kevin Porter Jr is likely to be released or traded after a reported outburst in the locker room in which he got into an argument with Cavs management after his locker was moved to accommodate one of the newest members of the team, Taurean Prince. We’ll see what happens with the young man from here on out.

The Cavs have been off for almost a week, and that’s because the Washington Wizards didn’t have enough players to field something close to a passable roster in either of their scheduled games, so both were postponed. The league office and the players are trying to sprint to the finish line without COVID messing everyone’s money up even more. It’s made for a sometimes uncomfortable watch, and Houston writer (and great twitter follow!) A’lyssah made note of it here in a great post:

this is a business. i know. you know. we know. but then you think about Karl-Anthony Towns & what you think you know starts to muddle. a few days ago it was revealed that KAT tested positive for COVID-19 & will miss playing time while he quarantines. this is especially tragic since KAT lost his mother & six other family members due to complications associated with the virus. it took tremendous courage for KAT to even return to basketball after those tragedies, so for him to contract the virus that has snatched so much from him is..... i don’t even have the words.

our country’s leadership, & i use leadership generously & mercifully, has already failed too many people unnecessarily. & after successfully creating the 2020 bubble, Adam Silver is starting to swerve into that same dangerous lane. the NBA is a business comprised of people. preserving the business means prioritizing the people who make the business successful.

I don’t know how we’re gonna keep going like this, y’all.

Kyrie Irving is back, and he mentioned he had been going through a lot while he was away. I’ll probably have more on this eventually, but one thing that struck me about some of the reactions to him was just the seeming callousness from some circles. It’s just frustrating watching people who you’d think would know better make asses of themselves when discussing him. I need a bunch of y’all to try and do better.

Back on the court, we get to see the Big Three in full effect! Kevin Durant and James Harden were sensational against the Bucks and now that Irving is here as well, their already dangerous offense figures to become even more impossible to guard against. KD and Harden have had their minutes staggered since they linked back up, and Steve Nash figures to keep it going tonight. Considering this is Irving’s first game back in a while, I don’t see him playing as many minutes as Durant and Harden, so we won’t be able to make any declarative statements about the team for a while. The experiment continues. And so do “Scary Hours.”

Contrary to what Paul Pierce may lead you to believe, the Cavaliers defense has actually been the second best in the league in defensive rating thus far and their best bet is to continue forcing turnovers at a high rate. Cleveland has forced the most turnovers in the league this year and as we know well around these parts, the Nets tend to get incredibly sloppy with the ball at times. That could be the mix that keeps them in the game and allows them a chance to pull off the upset.

Without Love and with injuries across the roster, Bernie Bickerstaff’s offensive attack is undermanned. They have the worst offense in the league and a lot of that is due to their non-existent three point attack. Hard to win a shootout against a team like the Nets if you can’t knock em down from three point range.

The Nets have had issues with rebounds and will be dealing with the top rebounder in the league. Andre Drummond is coming off a 30/20 (!!!) game against the Knicks and is once again tops in rebounds per game and rebound rate. The big guy is doing some more ballhandling and distributing on offense to... mixed results so far, but he’s always due to control the boards and that will help keep Cleveland hanging around.

Player to watch: Jarrett Allen

Hey, we know him! Our large adult son was traded as part of the move to bring Harden to Brooklyn, and tonight marks his official debut in Cleveland. We found out that the Nets tried to keep him in town, but weren’t able to do so. Such is life. The Cavs got themselves a really nice player, and Dime Magazine’s Katie Heindl has more on the big guy:

For the Cavs, Allen is the equivalent of a train heist. A versatile, stretch-potential big who plays concise and cool defense, rarely tangling himself up with fouls or frustration, and overall a franchise changing acquisition Cleveland would never have been able to secure in the clamor of free agency. Allen’s last three seasons with the Nets were a well-kept secret in that his development was measured, almost demure, but in that time he easily became the team’s more functional center, second to DeAndre Jordan only in rotation. His numbers have all ticked up incrementally and at 11 points, 9.6 rebounds per game he’s averaging the best of his career and will probably get much better within what is essentially the NBA’s, work ethic wise, most blue-collar team.

Allen talked about the move here as well. He was well liked by the fans and played hard every night. When we do get fans back in the building eventually, I’m sure he’ll get a huge, well deserved ovation.

For now, DeAndre Jordan and Reggie Perry will look to control the boards for Brooklyn. We talked about Drummond up top, and Allen figures to give the Nets trouble on the boards as well. Jordan actually did a decent job all things considered against Giannis Antetokuonmpo, but was a liability late as the Bucks continued to hunt him on the pick and roll. As the Nets roll through the season, they’ll figure out what lineup combinations work best and how to get the most out of everybody.

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