Nets must face James, Irving, and Love before Christmastime traditions

(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Opponent: Cleveland Cavaliers
Time: 7:30PM EST
Location: Quicken Loans Arena
Watch:YES Network
Listen: WFAN 101.9 FM

Can the Brooklyn Nets give supporters an early Christmas gift?

The Nets will be facing the reigning NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers on the road in the second game of back-to-back after facing the Golden State Warriors last night in Brooklyn. Not exactly a recipe for success, if you ask me.

The Nets played great against the Warriors Thursday night – for 24 minutes. This has been a common theme throughout the season for the Nets as it seems teams make the proper adjustments against them and the Nets don’t. Of course, it goes without saying, the Nets lost their fourth straight, 117-101 — turning a 16-point halftime lead into a 16-point loss.

The Nets will be without Trevor Booker (rest) and Isaiah Whitehead (foot), but will it matter? Whitehead is second in assists (3.1) and tied for seventh in points (6.8) among rookies — not bad for a second round pick– but the Nets will have other problems to deal with tonight, like, oh, say three will-be All-Stars.

However, the Cavaliers took a major hit to their lineup today as they announced that J.R. Smith will be out the next 12-14 weeks after thumb surgery. Smith was averaging 8.5 points per game, his lowest since his sophomore season.

Nonetheless, the Cavaliers have won three straight and eight of their last nine, as they currently hold the best record in the Eastern Conference with at 21-6.

One positive outlook for the Nets could be that they actually beat the Cavaliers last season, 104-95, perhaps their biggest win of the season. It was one of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s best games in his rookie season, as he held LeBron James scoreless in the fourth quarter and contributed with 10 points and 7 rebounds on the offensive end.

3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Cavaliers:

1. The Importance of the First Half

It seems as if the Nets can hang around with anyone in the first half, even the Golden State Warriors. Can they do it again against the defending champs? The Nets play their best basketball in the first half, so enjoy it!

2. The Cavaliers’ Big Three

LeBron is LeBron, arguably the best player in the NBA, but it seems as if this is the year their big three is finally clicking on all cylinders. Kyrie Irving is averaging 24.2 PGG, a career-high, while Kevin Love is averaging a double-double with 22.3 PPG and 10.7 RPG, his best since his Minnesota days. This is what most people expected when LeBron went home to Cleveland, so it’s scary to see it come to fruition after winning a ring. While the Warriors made the splashy signing in Kevin Durant, the Cavs brought back their continuity and it seems to be working.

3. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

This season is all about growth and progress, right? It’s been fun to watch Hollis-Jefferson in his last two games as he dropped 19 against the Toronto Raptors and 13 against the Warriors. Hollis-Jefferson had his best game against a rookie last season against the Cavaliers as he held the aforementioned James scoreless in the fourth quarter.

Will tonight’s game be his best game as a sophomore?