The roller coaster ride continues. After dropping a disappointing 110-91 loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday night, the Nets (30-40) bounced back with a big win Wednesday, rejuvenating their playoff hopes once again. Brook Lopez put the Nets on his back for a night, scoring 34 points (16-26 FG) and grabbing 10 rebounds to help the Nets hold off the Charlotte Hornets, 91-88. Despite a poor shooting night (2-for-9), Deron Williams did an effective job orchestrating the offense with 14 assists, including eight to Brook Lopez coming predominantly on pick-and-rolls. Thaddeus Young helped out with 11 points before leaving the game with a hyperextended knee after colliding with Hornets guard Gerald Henderson in the third quarter. Young will miss tonight’s game.
The Nets begin the day tied with the Hornets and Indiana Pacers, just a half-game behind the Boston Celtics for the eighth and final playoff spot. Boston plays the Knicks tonight at Madison Square Garden.
Tonight the Nets begin a three-game homestand against the Central Division-leading Cleveland Cavaliers (47-26), winners of four in a row and eight of their last nine. Led by Kyrie Irving’s 24 points and Kevin Love’s 22 points & 10 rebounds, David Blatt’s team dismantled the Memphis Grizzlies (50-22) in Memphis Wednesday, 111-89.
They’re on a roll. The Cavaliers are 28-6 in their last 34 games, including a 117-92 thumping of the Nets in Cleveland just nine days ago, their third win in three games this season versus the Nets. After falling behind 26-23 after one quarter, the Cavaliers erupted in the second, with 36 points including seven three-pointers, four coming from J.R. Smith. The Cavaliers got better in the third quarter, shooting 14-for-19 en route to another easy victory.
They’ve aged like fine wine: since the All-Star Break, the Cavaliers have beaten their opponents by an average of 17.4 points in their 14 wins.
MVP candidate LeBron James, in what is statistically a down year (if you can believe that), is currently averaging 25.8 points, 7.3 assists, and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 49.2 percent.
Coach Lionel Hollins has gone with the same starting lineup (Deron Williams, Markel Brown, Joe Johnson, Thaddeus Young, Brook Lopez) over the past ten games, but because of Young’s injury, an adjustment is necessary. Hollins has found success with smaller lineups before, particularly during the west coast trip after the All-Star Break, but considering Cleveland’s 142-102 advantage on the boards in their three contests, he may lean a different way tonight. He could even go as far as to start Earl Clark, who the Nets signed to a 10-day contract today.
What to watch for: Brook Lopez esta en fuego. With his performance on Wednesday, Brook Lopez became the first Nets player to score 26-plus points on 60 percent or more shooting in four consecutive games. If Lopez scores 30 points tonight, he will be the first to reach that total in three consecutive games in a Nets uniform since Devin Harris accomplished it in November of 2008.
Tip-off is at 7:30 PM E.D.T. at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.