The last time these two teams played, as is the case with most everything Brooklyn Nets these days, things were drastically different. On November 13th, the Nets semi-blew out the Cavaliers 114-101, getting over 20 points from their "big three" of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez. Brooklyn won easily despite 34 points from All-Star (I don't care that he hasn't been voted onto an All-Star team yet, he's an All-Star) point guard Kyrie Irving, and getting eaten alive by Cavaliers nightmarish center Anderson Varejao.
Varejao, averaging a career-high 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds (also career highs per 36 minutes, as he's playing a career-high...36 minutes per game), ripped Brook Lopez apart to the tune of 35 points (another career-high) and 18 rebounds, 11 on the offensive end. Lopez didn't have a slouch game -- he finished with 23 points and seven rebounds, and the Nets ended with the victory -- but he was clearly overshadowed by Varejao.
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, Varejao won't get another chance to tear the Nets interior defense limb from limb again. Varejao will sit out tonight's game with a bruised right knee, leaving a gaping hole at the center position where a capable player should be. Rookie Tyler Zeller started in his place last night, scoring 12 points on 5-11 shooting with seven rebounds in 38 minutes. Not exactly the same impact.
That's not the only difference. The Nets were also without starting swiss army knife Gerald Wallace in that game, starting either Keith Bogans or Kris Humphries in his place, depending on what you think about the team now. And, of course, Avery Johnson was the coach.
Tonight's game is the second straight chip shot for interim coach P.J. Carlesimo; he's facing an undermanned lottery team that's one player deep. Yes, Tristan Thompson has often given the Nets problems, but the 7-24 Cavaliers are a team the Nets should dispose of at home.
Now, if only it were that easy...