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Nets start holiday road trip in Cleveland vs. the Cavaliers

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Lauren Bacho/NBAE via Getty Images

Keep doing what you’re doing! On Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets had a showcase showdown against the Milwaukee Bucks at Barclays Center. In their final home game of 2022, the Nets gave the home fans a treat and beat the Bucks. The winning streak is now at eight and the team is charging up the Eastern Conference standings.

Joining the holiday festivities Monday will be the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs have built on their play-in appearance from last season and are in the top half of the East. Although they lost on Friday night to the Toronto Raptors, they’re third in the conference and figure to be a major player down the stretch.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for the locals, NBATV for the out of towners. WFAN on radio.


Joe Harris out with left knee soreness.

Ricky Rubio is out as he continues to recover from left ACL surgery. Dean Wade is out with a left shoulder sprain. Dylan Windler is out with a right ankle sprain.

The game

Tonight’s the first of a New Year’s road trip for the Nets. After this, they visit the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets before coming back home for game against the San Antonio Spurs. After that, they’re right back on the road for another road trip. Fun times.

The future for the Cavs is incredibly bright, and Evan Mobley is central to that. Over at the mothership, Mark Schindler wrote about the second year big and said:

He already has the height, passing vision, and an array of deliveries that make him enticing as a big man playmaker from the high post as a hub, and eventually off the dribble.

The continually developing intricacies of his game open up further pathways to Mobley being a special kind of player we don’t see come into the league often; He can defend the rim at a near DPOY level, he can guard wings and guards on the perimeter, and do it all without getting into foul trouble.

His budding self-creation makes him almost a lanky wing or 7-foot guard rather than a big. Positionless is a word that can be thrown around a bit too easily without fitting the billing, but Mobley might be well on his way to becoming the poster child.

Mobley will likely draw the unenviable assignment of guarding Kevin Durant. Durant had another great night at the office on Friday with 24 points, six assists, and five rebounds in 34 minutes. KD is impossible to handle and it’s going to take a total team effort to force him off his spot and push him into difficult shot attempts.

The battle at center will be incredibly fun tonight. Our old friend, Jarrett Allen, has been magnificent all season and is a good bet to get back to the All-Star Game. Allen has been the anchor to the league’s best defense (by defensive rating). Opponents are only shooting 43.9% from the field against Allen and JA has been a force on the boards as well. On the other side, Nic Claxton has continued his star turn on Friday night as his 19/8/5/3 game helped lead the charge for Brooklyn. Game by game, you see Claxton’s confidence growing and he’s critical to what this team hopes to accomplish. He’ll look to battle with the Cavs bigs on the boards. Brooklyn tied the Bucks on the boards on Friday night, and they’ll be facing another elite rebounding team in Cleveland. If the Nets can stay close in the rebounding department, it will go a long way in helping them extend the winning streak.

This game could come down to three point shooting. The Nets are in the bottom tier of teams in threes attempted per game, but they’re among the very best in efficiency (fourth overall). The Cavs are middle of the pack in efficiency and like the Nets, in the bottom tier in terms of attempts.

It’s a homecoming for Kyrie Irving. Irving starred in Cleveland for six seasons and won a title with them in 2016. He even did a bit of Twitter reminiscing Sunday...

On Friday, he started slow but turned up in the fourth quarter as his 14 points were the knockout punch to a Bucks team trying to make a comeback. Irving has been excellent in the second halves of games and is top ten in scoring after the break. If it’s close late, Jacque Vaughn and friends know they can give Irving the ball and trust him to make something good happen.

Player to watch: Donovan Mitchell

Sometimes, you have to swing for the fences. When a great player is available to be acquired, you do everything you can to bring them on to your squad. When the Cavs got Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz, it gave them their best player since LeBron James and someone who might propel them to a deep playoff run. There’s a value in having a star like Mitchell leading your franchise, as Jackson Flickinger of Fear the Sword notes:

Mitchell will likely never be the best player in the league or even in that conversation. But he does have the it factor you need from your best player to get you to the promise land. He’s showed that with the Utah Jazz in the playoffs, and is showing it repeatedly on a team he seems to fit with better.

You can’t judge blockbuster trades like the one that brought Mitchell to Cleveland after just three months. But, it’s hard to imagine a better outcome for Koby Altman and the Cavs at this point.

A solid roster surrounded by an elite scorer having the best season of his career across the board? Sounds like a good time.

Once upon a time, he and Ben Simmons ...

Award season is always something.

As for Simmons, he had a marvelous outing on Friday night. When you have scorers like Durant and Irving, you want to make the most out of every possession imaginable. And to do that, you have to keep the turnovers to a minimum. Over his last five games, Simmons has only coughed it up seven times as he’s helped the Nets push the pace and keep defenses off balance. With Simmons locked in, he gives the Nets a new dimension and makes them hard to handle.

From the Vault

We’re a day removed from Christmas, so let’s take it back to one of the best Christmas Day games of all time.

More reading: Fear the Sword