When one side has the MVP, chances are the day will do their way. Nikola Jokic has kept the Denver Nuggets atop the West even amidst their recent woes. The big guy had another excellent outing as he and the Nuggets handed the Brooklyn Nets their third straight loss on Sunday afternoon. The Nets are still in sixth place over the Miami Heat, but that lead is pretty tenuous right about now.
The opponent tonight is pretty well rested. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been off since last Friday after they beat the Washington Wizards by 23 points. With that win, the Cavs surpassed their win total from the 2021-2022 season. It’s no wonder they’re a safe bet to secure the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference standings.
Where to follow the game
YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 PM.
No Ben Simmons. Dorian Finney-Smith is questionable with a right wrist contusion. The two-ways are with Long Island.
Our guy, Jarrett Allen, has been dealing with an eye injury, and is questionable to return tonight although he did travel with the team.
Brooklyn won the first meeting back in December. The teams will stay put and wrap up the season series on Thursday at Barclays.
If I had an MVP vote, I’d have Donovan Mitchell in my top five. He has helped the Cavs surpass their win total from last season, has been a clutch time monster, and has fit in incredibly well in his new team. He’s had the best season of his career as he’s at career highs in points (27.4), field goal percentage (47.7%) and free throw percentage (87.6%). When the going gets tough, you need someone who can get their own shot and Mitchell is someone you can count on and trust him to make big baskets. It’s been a welcome move for him into the East, and when the playoffs start, he’ll have the opportunity to turn up and push the Cavs far.
If you’re able to make it into the paint against the Cavs, good luck trying to score. They hold teams to only 63.3 percent shooting inside the restricted area, third lowest in the NBA (not to be outdone, the Nets are sixth). When the Nets made attempts to attack the basket on Sunday, they went 17-23 on shots inside the restricted area. Brooklyn has to, has to, keep attacking and good things will happen.
However, this is a team that lives on 3-pointers and they went 12-35 from deep. A lot of those misses were of the wide open variety, and if you rely on the three as much as this club does, you can’t afford any cold nights from downtown. Since the All Star break, the Nets are 25th in three point percentage while the Cavs are at seventh. If the Nets are cold from deep again, they’ll be in trouble.
The thing about being the lead option is even when you’re cold, you gotta keep at it. The team counts on you to score, and if you’re aggressive and hunting for the right shot, you can live with the results. Mikal Bridges started off slowly on Sunday, but he stuck with it and kept firing. He only scored two points in the first quarter as he went 0-of-4 from the field with two turnovers, but he started to figure things out as the game progressed. He wound up with 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the floor. He had a rough start on the defensive end as well, and he spoke about that in the postgame:
“I think personally I take a lot of blame because I think I was just poor on the defensive end. Obviously, I was missing shots early, but that comes with the game just missing that’s just part of it, but I can control playing defense. So that’s what messed me up right now and that’s on me I’ve just gotta be more locked in on that side of the ball.”
The Nets are the worst rebounding team in the NBA, and it adds up after a while. They’ve been outrebounded in their last four games, and as it happens, they’ve lost three of them. Whether it’s Steve Nash or Jacque Vaughn, the coaching staff has implored the team to be better on the glass, and it just hasn’t happened. Losing the boards every night wears you out, and it keeps them from taking off the ways they want to.
In the interim, Nic Claxton will look to do his best to hold the frontcourt down. Clax had his usual great day at the office, with 19 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes. With another day on the club, this might be the day we see Moses Brown make his Nets debut. The Nets need as much rebounding help as they can get, and if he can bring it, more power to him.
So Cam Thomas got some run for the first time in a while on Sunday, and looked pretty decent!
Decision making has been one of the knocks on Thomas, and if he’s able to make the right reads when he’s attacking the basket, it will help him immensely as he continues to grow. We’ve talked about the Nets not getting to the basket enough, and Thomas helps addresses some of that problem.
Then, there’s this. Last week, Cavs beat writer Chris Fedor was asked on a Cleveland.com blog who the home team wants to face in the playoffs. Fedor left no doubt in his response.
No one inside the organization would say this publicly — and they shouldn’t. But multiple people I’ve spoken to recently are privately hoping for a Brooklyn matchup. It’s easy to understand why. Even though the Cavs, with home-court advantage, would likely be capable of competing — and possibly winning — a seven-game series against any of the teams currently behind them in the standings, the Nets would be Cleveland’s easiest path out of round one.
We’re not sure whether “bulletin board” material affects professional athletes, but this would sure seem to meet the criteria.
Player to watch: Evan Mobley
A big part of the Cavs’ future will be on Mobley’s shoulders. He and JA form a formidable duo on the interior and Mobley has taken a bit of a leap on offense this season. He’s taking more shots inside of three feet this season, and he’s shooting a pretty remarkable 81% on those attempts. The beauty of playing with players like Mitchell and Darius Garland that drive to the basket and draw so much attention from defenders is you will have plenty of opportunities to cash in.
Cam Johnson will look to bounce back after a rough outing. CJ only went 5-of-13 from the field as he missed five of his six three point attempts.
From the Vault
On Sunday, University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley was rocking the #44 Cheyney University of Yolanda Laney (Betnijah’s mom!) on the sidelines as SC advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and kept their undefeated season alive. Cheyney University was the first and only HBCU to make it to the Final Four, so let’s learn about that legendary team
More reading: Fear the Sword
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Cleveland Cavaliers Game Notes - Cleveland Cavaliers
- Cavs, Nets enter two-game set jostling for playoff positioning - STATS
- Brooklyn takes on Cleveland, aims to break 3-game skid - AP
- Cavaliers reportedly want to face Nets in the playoffs - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets need to fix their rebounding woes to end losing streak - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Identity crisis: Nets torn between crashing glass and playing fast - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- ‘Unsung’ Caris LeVert has finally found his fit with Cavs — just in time for the playoffs - Chris Fedor - Cleveland Plain-Dealer