Dec. 29, 2012; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) is fouled by Cleveland Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller (40) during the second half at Barclays Center. Nets won 103-100. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers (22-51) at Brooklyn Nets (42-31)

With Kyrie Irving back in action tonight, things are again looking up for the Wine& Gold. Irving will take the floor tonight against Nets in Brooklyn and owner Jay-Z, who just founded Roc Nation Sports. It’s also, more importantly, the return of Kyrie Irving after he missed Monday’s game. And without a doubt, he is the key to the Cavaliers winning a game, in all seriousness, have no business winning.

Opponent’s Blog:  From Russia With Dunk

Venue: Quicken Loans Arena

Tipoff: 7:00 PM ET

Betting Line: Nets by -5

Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio

Where you can listen: WTAM (1100), WFUN (970 AM)

This is big name for Brooklyn as the season starts to wind down. They currently are only one game ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and two games ahead of the Chicago Bulls. Obtaining the fourth seed is key, as it leaves a clearer path to a potential second round matchup against the Miami Heat. That one extra game at home in a closely contested series could mean the Nets move onto the next round.

Granted, they probably could lose this game and be okay. Matchups against the likes of the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats give the Nets some potential leeway if they do fall.

Tonight, however, there is a direct path to victory. With Brook Lopez at center, there is a clear path to victory: pound the ball inside and attack Tyler Zeller. The last time these teams matched up, Zeller was completely outmatched on the defensive end and fouled out mid-way through the fourth quarter. Luke Walton then had to step in to play center and I think it’s pretty obvious how that turns out no matter who is playing center.

For the Cavaliers, they need Irving to play big. With Deron Williams not playing the best basketball of his career and slowed by persistent ankle issues, Irving should be on the attack from the get go. Use Tristan Thompson and Irving in pick and roll situations to attempt to get easy buckets and open the wings. Role players like CJ Miles, Wayne Ellington and Zeller are going to need to hit their shots tonight.

My guess is that Irving is going to get his and the Nets will have no answer for him. Like against the Hawks, Irving is going to make the Cavaliers a better basketball team and he may even be the best player on the court tonight. But the everywhere else is lacking to the point where it’s hard to see how the Cavaliers are going to even make this competitive.

The best case for the Cavaliers is that Irving plays superhero and just puts on a dazzling performance in Brooklyn. The better he plays, the better the Cavaliers and thus the better chance Cleveland has to win the game. But everything will need to go right and, as we all know after watching 73 games of Cavalier basketball, that just isn’t going to happen.


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Tags: Brooklyn Nets Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving Tyler Zeller

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