Either the Cavaliers are Brooklyn’s kryptonite, or the Nets still have plenty to figure out.
With a chance to take revenge after a double-overtime loss, Brooklyn continued to falter against the Cavaliers in a 125-113 defeat on Friday. The loss brings the Nets to 9-8 on the season.
Kevin Durant had the night off after playing 50 minutes in Wednesday’s game, and Brooklyn missed his size — among other things. The Cavaliers dominated the Nets on the boards, out-rebounding Brooklyn 62-32 (yikes) and out-scoring them 70-46 in the paint (also yikes).
The Nets led by as many as five points in the first half and trailed by a point at the break, but the third quarter was Brooklyn’s true demise. After turning the ball over just two times in the first half, the Nets committed eight giveaways in the third quarter as the Cavaliers went on a 20-5 extended run that brought their lead to 14, and later led by as many as 16. Cleveland out-scored Brooklyn 37-24 in the third quarter and the Nets were not able to get back in it.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but the Nets struggled mightily with getting defensive stops. Cleveland continuously attacked the paint and grabbed second-chance points off 13 offensive rebounds.
The Cavaliers have the advantage in size over the Nets, but a lot of Cleveland’s opportunities were the result of a lack of effort on Brooklyn’s end. The Nets were inconsistent in their eagerness to get back in transition after turnovers, allowing Cleveland to score on the fastbreak with relative ease. Ultimately, the Cavaliers scored 16 points off Brooklyn’s 18 turnovers.
The Nets often stayed away from the paint offensively, opting to instead attempt a season-high 43 three-point shots. The team was hot from distance in the first quarter, shooting 7-of-16, but finished the rest of the game just 7-of-27 from three and shot 48.3% overall.
Kyrie Irving was often the most aggressive on offense for the Nets, pushing the tempo late and finishing with 38 points. James Harden, who started as a power forward for the first time in his career, had a double-double with 19 points and 11 assists. The Nets went deeper in their bench this time around, but Cleveland’s bench still had the 53-31 edge.
Jarrett Allen (19 points, 6 rebounds) and Taurean Prince (14 points) continued their revenge tour. Unfortunately, Joe Harris felt the impact firsthand — and he had his second straight game scoring in single digits.
😱 JARRETT ALLEN RIM ROCK on NBA LP 😱@cavs 50@BrooklynNets 45 pic.twitter.com/tdrJl2KrUB
— NBA (@NBA) January 23, 2021
Andre Drummond also had a field day in the paint, feasting for 19 points and 16 rebounds.
The Nets entered Cleveland with a new Big Three and leave with plenty learned about the new rotations. Many of the same issues remain — defense, turnovers, rebounding — and will need to be figured out with more familiarity. The Nets have size on the way with the signing of Norvel Pelle, but opponents know loud and clear what Brooklyn’s weaknesses are — and have succeeded in exploiting them.
Next up: the second half of a back-to-back against the Miami Heat on Saturday. Maybe some home cooking will do some good.
The stats: 38 PTS, 14-24 FG, 4-9 3PT, 6-6 FT, 1 REB, 5 AST, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 31 MIN
Kyrie Irving looked great offensively for the second straight game since his return.
KAI 💪@Honda | #BrooklynTogether pic.twitter.com/uEq3xV9LTk
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 23, 2021
The Nets seemed to settle for long-distance shots often with the mismatch inside, but Kyrie was someone who made an effort to drive the ball in the fourth quarter to try and gain some momentum. While he drew contact and made shots, stops still did not come on the other end.
Brooklyn needed the offensive production by Kyrie with KD out, and he was about as efficient as he could have been. If anything, his assist number was a bit lower than what he has shown in recent performances.
The stats: 19 PTS, 6-14 FG, 4-9 3PT, 3-4 FT, 5 REB, 11 AST, 3 TO, 37 MIN
Two nights after shooting 6-14 from the field, James Harden did just that: shoot 6-14 from the field.
TOO NICE 🤩 pic.twitter.com/g3OPef83Jz
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 23, 2021
Harden started the game in a point forward role as the Nets lacked size, so his shot-taking may have taken a hit, but it seems his focus is still on distributing the ball to his teammates. With KD out, it was almost expected that Harden would take more of a role on offense, but that was not the case.
Harden also spent more time with Brooklyn’s second unit, which can work while sharing ball-sharing duties with Kyrie. Still, the Nets could benefit from Harden being more aggressive, and that balance still needs time to form.
The stats: 13 PTS, 5-9 FG, 1-3 3PT, 2-2 FT, 2 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 26 MIN
Jeff Green added some needed size for the Nets off the bench and was also a good go-to scoring option.
Green was one of Brooklyn’s more active players on defense, grabbing two steals, but the Nets need all players to buy in with their hustle to be successful. Still, Green struggled against Cleveland’s bigs in getting rebounds, but it is hard to blame him based on the sheer mismatch in size.
The stats: 11 PTS, 4-9 FG, 3-7 3PT, 1 REB, 1 AST, 26 MIN
TLC had a quick 11 points in 10 minutes, but then he was quiet the rest of the game.
It was good to see TLC start to heat up from distance again, but his second-half performance was disappointing. He was not alone in going cold, but the Nets need to rely on him to provide a punch — and some rebounds — in his minutes, which will likely be more limited once KD returns to the lineup.
The stats: 9 PTS, 4-4 FG, 1-2 FT, 4 REB, 1 AST, 3 BLK, 4 TO, 26 MIN
Andre Drummond offensive rebounds: 5
DeAndre Jordan offensive rebounds: 0
Jordan struggled against Drummond — and Jarrett — and was clearly out-matched most of the night. He was able to get up for three blocks, but his four turnovers hurt Brooklyn in other key moments.
On a night where the Nets needed Jordan’s size, the rebounding presence was not there. A four-rebound night just does not cut it.