Coming off their biggest win of the season in Oklahoma City, the Brooklyn Nets (11-21) are back home Saturday night to take on the Kyrie Irving-less Cleveland Cavaliers (11-21). This is a big game for the Nets in terms of the bottom of the eastern conference standings, as the team who wins tonight will be one step closer to that 8th seed.
These teams met earlier this year on opening night in Cleveland, where the Cavs won a very close game. However, the teams are completely different now. Both teams will be without stars in Kyrie Irving and Brook Lopez and also both teams have become accustomed to losing this year.
Injuries: The Nets are finally healthy (yay!), with the exception of Brook Lopez obviously. I expect Andrei Kirilenko to be off his minutes restriction tonight and he could play 20+ minutes. The Nets also expect Andray Blatche back tonight. The Cavs are also healthy, with the exception of their best player, Kyrie Irving, who will not travel to Brooklyn. Andrew Bynum is also obviously out and will likely never play for Cleveland again.
Deron Williams vs. Jarrett Jack. Advantage: Williams
Deron Williams is coming off his best game of the season in OKC, so it was not coincidence that the Nets won that game. Jack will probably start for the Cavs in place of Kyrie Irving. He was a big part of the Warriors and their playoff run last year, but he is no Kyrie. Hopefully Deron can continue building on the OKC game.
Shaun Livingston vs. C.J. Miles. Advantage: Miles
I’m guessing that Livingston will start again for the Nets as they are 2-0 with him and Deron Williams both in the starting lineup. Either Miles or Dion Waiters will start for Cleveland, but it will probably be Miles. He is capable of hitting difficult shots and has had good games against the Nets in the past. It will be interesting to see who Shaun Livingston will end up defending. It may be a forward.
Joe Johnson vs. Earl Clark. Advantage: Johnson
Clark has definitely been a disappointing free agent pickup for Cleveland, averaging just 6 ppg on under 40% shooting. However, he will have a height advantage over Johnson tonight. Joe Johnson is coming off a huge buzzer beater in Oklahoma City, but other than that, he has been in a pretty big slump lately. Hopefully that shot will get him out of his slump.
Paul Pierce vs. Tristan Thompson. Advantage: Pierce
Thompson is having an ok year, averaging a double-double of 12 and 10, but he has not lived up to the #4 pick that he was. Pierce starts for the Nets at the 4 in this small lineup and could be overmatched a bit on the glass by Thompson. He will need help from Kevin Garnett in the rebounding department.
Kevin Garnett vs. Anderson Varejao. Advantage: Varejao
Varejao’s points and rebounds have been very down this year, but at least he has been healthy. He has had some huge games against the Nets in the past. Garnett didn’t play especially well on Thursday, but the team is still waiting for him to turn his season around.
Bold prediction: Andrei Kirilenko will make a big impact tonight. Against a bad defense like Cleveland’s Kirilenko should score in double digits.
Score prediction: Nets 104, Cavaliers 96. The Nets will have their second win-streak of the season after beating Cleveland tonight.