Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets will host Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Barclays Center. The Nets are coming off of a home-and-home sweep of the Orlando Magic, where they held Orlando to only 142 points in the two games. The Cavaliers are currently on a 3-game losing streak, with the latest loss being by 15 points against Oklahoma City on Sunday.
Let’s first look at the visiting team. The Cavaliers (2-5) are slumping. After winning their first game against the Wizards, the Cavs have lost 5 of 6 and have allowed over 100 points in all of those games. However, they do have a good future with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson as their main pieces. The biggest problem for them has been their bench. Aside from Daniel Gibson, the Cavs don’t have another bench player who can really impact the game on either the offensive or defensive end. This may be a good team in the future, but they need to have better role players to win consistently over an 82-game season.
The Nets (3-2) have definitely had an up-and-down season to this point. After getting blown out in Miami by 30 points, they responded by winning 2 straight over Orlando while outscoring the Magic by 57 points over the first 5 quarters. However, the Nets did not play well in the last 3 quarters of the second game. The biggest problem this season has been the play of the widely heralded “Brooklyn’s Backcourt”. Deron Williams has not played nearly as well as he would have liked and has had way too many turnovers. Joe Johnson’s points per game are way down, as is his shooting percentage. The Nets need to find more consistency and I have faith that they will because they have only played 5 games to this point.
Injuries: For Brooklyn, Gerald Wallace and Marshon Brooks will both miss this game with ankle injuries. Both are listed as day-to-day and could return Thursday vs. Boston. The Cavaliers have no significant injuries.
Deron Williams vs. Kyrie Irving. Advantage: Tie
For those of you who haven’t seen Kyrie Irving play yet this year, tonight is your opportunity. He is the next great point guard in the NBA and is putting up some terrific numbers this year: 23 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds. Although those numbers are significantly better than Deron Williams’s, Deron has had a slow start and he will turn his numbers around. Irving’s defense is not great and this will be a good game for Deron to start the turnaround. He is still an elite point guard in the NBA.
Joe Johnson vs. Dion Waiters. Advantage: Johnson
Dion Waiters is an intriguing rookie and he is averaging over 15 ppg so far this season, which is better than Johnson. However, Waiters has not proven to be a good defender so far in his career and Johnson is much bigger than him. This would be a great time for Johnson to have a breakout game.
Keith Bogans vs. Alonzo Gee. Advantage: Gee
Gee is an athletic small forward who has been with the Cavs the last couple of years. He is a below average starting small forward in the NBA. Bogans should be able to guard Gee pretty easily and maybe hit a few open jumpers too, but neither player will have a big impact on the game.
Kris Humphries vs. Tristan Thompson. Advantage: Humphries
These two are pretty similar players. Both like to rebound and won’t contribute much offensively. Humphries is coming off of his best game of the season with 14 points and 21 rebounds. I expect him to continue riding off of that performance tonight.
Brook Lopez vs. Anderson Varejao. Advantage: Lopez
Varejao is everything that Brook is not: very scrappy and a good rebounder. However, Lopez’s offensive game is worlds better than Varejao’s. But if Lopez does not do a good job of boxing Varejao out tonight, he could have 15 or more rebounds. There is a good chance of that happening, especially if the Nets aren’t hitting their jump shots.
Prediction: Nets 115, Cavaliers 99.
I don’t give Cleveland much of a chance to win this game tonight. It is the last game of a 6-game road trip where they have so far went 1-4. Brooklyn has played better its last two games, especially on defense. Cleveland has been one of the worst defensive teams this year, allowing over 100 points in all but one of their games. This should be a pretty easy win for the Nets.