The Brooklyn Nets (3-12) were in striking distance for yet another elusive win on Wednesday before falling short to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 110-99. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s combined 57 points proved too much for the Nets despite some encouraging spurts throughout the contest that kept the game tight through three quarters.
Closing games continues to be an issue for the Nets. They now rank 29th in the league in fourth quarter points at 22.6 a game. Joe Johnson’s six-point (2-for-11 shooting), six-turnover performance in 31 minutes on Wednesday sure didn’t help the cause either.
Tonight, before heading home for eight of nine games at Barclays Center, the Nets will take on the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers (12-4). This will be the first of four matchups between the two teams; the Cavaliers took three of four games from the Nets last season.
The Cavaliers took down the Hornets in Charlotte Friday night, 95-90, behind LeBron James (25 points, 13 rebounds) and Kevin Love (18 points, 16 rebounds). Love is third in the league in rebounding at 12.1 boards a game, and has posted double-digit rebounds in 11 of 16 games. Tristan Thompson, who had 7 points, 12 rebounds, is seventh in the league with 10.3 rebounds per game. LeBron James leads the league in mustache curls.
Timofey Mozgov, after missing three games with a strained shoulder, returned to the lineup last night but played only 18 minutes while scoring eight points.
The Nets’ dreadful three-point shooting continued Wednesday (3-for-13) including Joe Johnson’s 0-for-5, but it seems one unlikely source is starting to come around. After shooting just 0-for-4 from three in his first seven games, Shane Larkin has hit 13 of his last 20 three point attempts (65 percent). Larkin, a career 31 percent three point shooter during his first two seasons, has averaged 7.1 points and 3.2 assists in 18.1 minutes this season.
In case you missed it: All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving (knee surgery) and guard Iman Shumpert (wrist surgery) have yet to play this season. Both are expected back before the All-Star break.
What to watch for: Battle on the boards. Last season, the Cavaliers out-rebounded the Nets a combined 142-102 in their three victories. In their fourth meeting, the Nets won the battle on the boards 46-40 en route to a 106-98 win. Those facts along with James, Love, and Thompson’s combined 41 rebounds on Wednesday should be enough of an incentive for Coach Hollins to emphasize the glass game. Fortunately for the Nets, Thaddeus Young is on pace for a career high in rebounds with 8.4 per game, and Brook Lopez’s 8.3 per game is his highest rate since the 2009-10 season.
Tip-off is at 7:30 EDT at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH.