Keys to Brooklyn’s home matinee against Cleveland Cavaliers

Photo courtesy YES Network

When: 1 p.m. EST

Where: Barclays Center 

Watch: YES Network 

Photo courtesy YES Network

The Brooklyn Nets played well Friday night against the Toronto Raptors, but the Nets lacked a closer. The Toronto Raptors relied on the backs of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan while the Nets relied on D’Angelo Russell, who had a good game overall but still struggled shooting the ball.

Brooklyn gets another chance to redeem itself against the Eastern Conference elite against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. All assumptions of LeBron James being a human have been quickly nullified with his superb play as of late. The 33-year-old is averaging a triple-double since Feb. 1, and he has not shown signs of slowing down. It goes without being said, but Brooklyn needs to defend Cleveland’s role players to secure a victory in this one. 

The Nets have lost two straight close games but are starting to show signs of improvement. Brooklyn’s problem has been guarding the interior and rebounding, but the perimeter defense has improved. Russell is showing flashes of using his length to his advantage to create turnovers. The Nets have been disruptive, but if a team finds a way to get inside the paint against them, chances are the opponent will end up with a bucket.

Brooklyn’s emphasis in this contest must be interior defense and finding ways to keep LeBron out of the paint.

Three things to watch for:

Larry Nance Jr.

Larry Nance Jr. missed four games with a sore hamstring before returning to action against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. In his 22 minutes of play, he recorded 15 points and 10 rebounds on 6-of-11 shooting. He was a huge factor in the 25-point rout, and will certainly look to follow up that performance against Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon.

He also runs the floor well and has extreme leaping ability (Nets fans know that more than anyone), as well as a solid mid-range game. Couple that with Brooklyn’s struggles to guard opposing bigs, and Nance Jr. might be a candidate for a big game.

D’Angelo Russell 

D-Lo is fresh off the Nets’ first triple-double since 2010, where he ran the pick-and-roll beautifully and fooled defenders on multiple occasions with fake passes to Jarrett Allen. It was encouraging to see and the hope for Nets fans is he follows that up with a big game on Sunday.

Last year around this time, Russell exploded for a career-high 40 points. Maybe history will repeat itself and lead the Nets to a victory.

Dante Cunningham

The Nets finally used Dante Cunningham since his return from injury against the Raptors and he gave the second unit some valuable minutes. One thing that has impressed most Nets fans has been Cunningham’s ability to shoot from the perimeter, shooting 48 percent from deep since he joined Brooklyn and proving to be a regular in the Nets’ rotation. His role against Cleveland will be to use his strong build and hard-nosed defense to try and limit LeBron James. 

Godspeed, Dante.