When: 7 p.m. EST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena
Watch: YES Network, Fox Sports GO
Listen: 101.9 FM, 660 AM
Finally. Monday night, the Brooklyn Nets broke their eight-game losing streak against the Chicago Bulls, with a convincing 104-87 victory. It was a much-needed win for the Nets, who really looked lost at points in the past few games. Along with a solid defensive performance, Brooklyn shared the ball to their advantage as well. The Nets assisted on 31 of 40 field goals, displaying crisp ball movement. With Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert back, the Nets were (mostly) healthy for the first time in months.
On the second half of the back-to-back, the Nets will take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers are a much different team compared to their last meeting on Nov. 22. Cleveland retooled at the trade deadline, acquiring several key role players like George Hill and Rodney Hood. The Cavaliers have looked much more cohesive as of late after going through much drama with Isaiah Thomas’ tumultuous tenure with the team. Now, the Cavs are gearing for another deep run in the playoffs with a new roster. And of course, LeBron James will always be a massive problem.
Here are three things to watch in Nets-Cavs!
Welcome Back, Rondae and Caris
Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert both returned to the Nets’ lineup against the Bulls, playing 21 minutes apiece. While both players looked to be shaking off the rust, their mere activity energized the Nets on both ends of the court. LeVert’s shiftiness on offense really changed the geometry of the Nets’ sets. RHJ’s activity on defense annoyed Lauri Markkanen, sparking as a catalyst for a solid defensive performance. As was mentioned previously, the Nets are healthy (with the exception of Jeremy Lin).
Against the Cavaliers, this combo could be useful to control the pace. LeVert and RHJ really excel in the open floor, creating offense with speed. While the Cavs are now younger and more athletic, LeVert and RHJ can create chaos against the Cavaliers’ defense. And it looks like both players will see their minutes increase as well!
Atkinson said LeVert and Hollis-Jefferson can not only play tomorrow but see their minutes increase #Nets
— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) February 27, 2018
Good Defense, Good Results
The Nets held the Bulls to 87 points in their victory Monday night. Per Nets PR, Brooklyn is 12-1 when they hold opponents to under 100 points. During the Nets’ losing streak, their lowest opponent scoring total was 102 against the Lakers. So it’s a simple correlation – when the Nets play good defense, they win. They’ll need to do that against the Cavaliers.
But defending the Cavaliers well will be a difficult task. LeBron is still the most impactful player on the court in any game. The Cavs are also seventh in the league in scoring at 109.8 points per game, and top ten in several offensive categories, including field goal percentage, free throw attempts, two-point field goal percentage and offensive rating. So the Nets have their work cut out for them. Brooklyn’s smaller new-look lineup could provide enough versatility to switch between all of Cleveland’s weapons, but stopping (or containing) LeBron will be a nightmare. Guaranteed.
A Little Bit of Dinwiddie Magic
Let’s go back to October. It’s early in the season and the Nets are playing the Cavs for the first time. The Nets are without D’Angelo Russell, but Brooklyn, somehow, someway competes against the Cavs. Not only that, but they win as well! Led by Spencer Dinwiddie’s 22 points (the beginning of his eye-opening season), Brooklyn was able to string together a strong team victory.
Four months later, the Nets may need a little bit of magic to defeat one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Luckily, it’s not just Dinwiddie that could step up. D’Angelo Russell will likely be alongside him. LeVert and Hollis-Jefferson will continue to push the pace. Jarrett Allen will try to continue stealing souls in the paint. And Allen Crabbe will look to continue building on his recent stretch of strong games. Playing Cleveland is tough – and the task is even difficult coming off of a back-to-back. But a (near) full strength Nets squad will look to build upon their strong win on Monday by battling the Cavaliers – and trying to shock the NBA again.