After battling LeBron James’ new team twice, even making a trip to his version of greener pastures, the Nets (2-4) will get a first-hand look at the other side of “The Decision” as they play a home-and-home set with the Cleveland Cavaliers (3-3), starting tonight in Newark and continuing tomorrow night in Cleveland.
After a promising start to the season, the Nets have dropped four straight, including two double-digit losses on their weekend getaway to Florida against the Magic and Heat. Toughness is the subject surrounding the Nets right now, and with good reason. Brook Lopez was crushed in his matchup against Dwight Howard, with injury added to insult in the form of a black eye Lopez received from Howard’s elbow late in the game. The following night, after the Nets hung with Miami in the first half, the second half resembled more of an exhibition game involving the Eastern Conference All-Stars or Harlem Globetrotters, with James and Dwyane Wade leading a flurry of breakaway dunks and alley-oops which turned a competitive contest into a mockery. Only a Terrence Williams’ foul that sent James into the stands Saturday night acted as any kind of fight against the assault the Nets received over the weekend.
For a Nets team looking to establish itself in the Eastern Conference, the back-to-back matchup with the Cavaliers presents, at least on paper, a chance to get back to .500.
But the Cavaliers should not be treated lightly. After coming out on the losing end of “The Decision,” the situation looked bleak in Cleveland, as the only major addition the team made this offseason was new head coach Byron Scott. But the Cavs, widely picked to be one of the worst teams in the league this season, if not the absolute worst team in the East, are currently tied with the Chicago Bulls for first in the Central Division. They picked up an opening-night win over the Celtics (the night after Boston knocked off LeBron’s Heat) and followed up a three-game skid with back-to-back road wins over Philadelphia and Washington.
With plenty of shots to go around now, Mo Williams and youngsters and J.J. Hickson (22 years old) and Daniel Gibson (24) have shouldered the scoring load. Williams has returned after missing the first three games with an injury to lead the team in scoring, while Hickson (8.5 ppg in ’09-’10, 16.5 in ’10-’11) and Gibson (6.3 ppg in ’09-’10, 15.0 in ’10-’11) have seen significant increases in their scoring averages from last year.
Cleveland should also see the return tonight of veteran power forward Antawn Jamison, who has missed the Cavs’ last three games with a knee injury but practiced on Monday.
Cleveland Cavaliers (3-3) Projected Starting Lineup
- PG Mo Williams: 20.7 ppg, 4.0 apg
- SG Anthony Parker: 10.3 ppg, .625 3p%
- SF Jamario Moon: 6.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg
- PF J.J. Hickson: 16.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg
- C Anderson Varejao: 9.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg
New Jersey Nets (2-4) Projected Starting Lineup
- PG Devin Harris: 15.8 ppg, 6.3 apg
- SG Anthony Morrow: 10.5 ppg, .375 3p%
- SF Travis Outlaw: 8.5 ppg, .500 3p%
- PF Troy Murphy: 5.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
- C Brook Lopez: 18.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg
(Photo courtesy of YardBarker.com)