The rivalry between Brooklyn and Cleveland is becoming more and more important every year. Last season the Nets stopped the Cavaliers from making the playoffs and now the visitors make no secret of the fact that they would not mind facing the club from New York in elimination games. The Cavaliers haven’t beaten Brooklyn on the road in over four years – can they break that streak?
The Nets lost their last three games of the regular season, and now they are in danger of falling out of the top 6. They have the same wins as seventh-place Miami, but fortunately, Brooklyn still has two games left. Mikel Bridges is emerging as a huge star in New York, averaging 25.9 points and 43.9% three-pointers for his new team. Spencer Dinwiddie had at least 11 assists in 4 of his previous five games, but as you can see, that’s not a guarantee of success. There are bright games for Cam Johnson, and overall the Kevin Durant trade was a good one for the Nets. Injuries still plague Ben Simmons, and Dorian Finney-Smith might not play against Cleveland either.
In a recent game against Brooklyn, the team lost to Denver by a score of 102:108. If you look at the three-game losing streak, the meeting with the Nuggets was the most efficient offensively. Nicolas Claxton made 9 of 12 shots from the field, and Mikal Bridges was the most productive player on the team. Seth Curry was good from beyond the arc, but Cam Johnson and Joe Harris had no shots. A couple of three-pointers were just enough to win the game.
The Cavaliers are likely to finish the regular season in 4th place in the Eastern Conference, which has been evident for a while. The team has seven wins in their last ten games, and Donovan Mitchell averages 29.2 points. Isaac Okoro, Jedi Osman, Lamar Stevens, and Caris Levert shot above 40 percent from beyond the arc, which helped Cleveland’s offense considerably. The club’s biggest asset is its defense. The team leads the NBA’s defensive rating and rarely plays together for a score. The Cavs are still more vulnerable without Jarrett Allen, but the team’s primary center is already practicing and will be back in action soon. Allen’s participation in the Brooklyn game is still questionable.
Right now, it is difficult to assess the real strength of Cleveland. The last 3 wins of the team were against not the strongest opponents – Charlotte and Washington are out of the top 10 of the East. The team beat the Wizards 117:94. Solid defense made up for the missed shots from beyond the arc as the Cavaliers made only three three-pointers, and Garland and Mitchell combined for 1 of their 11 long-range attempts.
As was evident in last week’s game against Denver, Brooklyn is slowly coming out of its crisis. The Nets will face the best defense in the NBA right now, and the losing streak will be hard to break. Cleveland plays very clingy against Charlotte and Washington. The meeting with Brooklyn is crucial for the visitors, so the motivation is on the Cavaliers’ side.
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