LAST TIME OUT
On Wednesday, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters hit the first game-winner of his professional career against the Detroit Pistons, giving the Cavaliers a 97-96 win in Detroit. Outside of Waiters, Matthew Dellavedova had his best game as a pro, scoring 21 points off the bench. The win, the Cavaliers’ third straight, put them three games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the East’s final playoff spot.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: Brooklyn Nets
Tipoff: 7:30 from Quicken Loans Arena
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: Nets 89, Cavaliers 82 on Jan. 4
Opponent’s Blog: From Russia With Dunk
Nets: F Kevin Garnett (OUT-back), F Andrew Kirilenko (OUT-left ankle sprain)
Cavaliers: G Kyrie Irving (OUT-bicep strain), G Carrick Felix (OUT-knee), G Sergey Karasev (OUT-knee), F Anthony Bennett (OUT-knee)
Deron Williams is alive!
Remember Deron Williams? You know, the point guard drafted the same year as Chris Paul that was arguably at one point the best point guard in the NBA? And then he had a bunch of ankle issues, has missed a lot of time while getting paid max money by the Brooklyn Nets? Well, of late, he’s looked a lot like his former self. Not coincidentally, the Nets have started to look like a team who can do some damage in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The question for Cleveland will be how they can defend him. Neither Jarrett Jack or Matthew Dellavedova are capable of doing so, which means Mike Brown is going to need to be creative in oder to slow down Williams. Crazy as it sounds, Alonzo Gee might need to used to defend Williams stretches. The only problem there is that playing Gee, in a lineup where he is guarding Williams, doesn’t mesh with the Cavaliers rotation. So, in short, expect the Cavaliers to have a hard time defending Williams.
Nine to go
As noted above, with just nine games out, the Cavaliers sit just three games back of the Hawks in the Eastern Conference standings. The Cavaliers opponents during those nine games are as follows: Brooklyn (2x), the Indiana Pacers, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Orlando Magic, the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Bobcats, the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics. Three of those games (including tonight’s game) take place on the road. Depending on how Atlanta (as well as the New York Knicks) finishes the season, the Cavaliers might somehow sneak into the playoffs.
But to do that, they need to win a majority of those games. Assuming Cleveland beats Orlando, Detroit, Milwaukee and Boston, that leaves five games against Eastern Conference playoff teams. Beating Brooklyn at least once might a necessity to have fighting chance to make the playoffs and with the Nets at less than full strength, it might need tonight’s victory to make that final push.
Remember bad Dion?
The last time the Cavaliers played the Nets, Dion Waiters did this:
Waiters has come a long way since that game and that simply awful shot. He’s settled into the Cavaliers’ second leadings scorer and one of the team’s leaders. So tonight, when these teams matchup, sit back and enjoy Waiters.
The Cavaliers are playing well right now and are well within the playoff hunt. But here’s the thing: Despite being banged up, Brooklyn is a better team than the Cavaliers, plain and simple. Although they’ve lost two straight, they’ve really turned it around since struggling early in the season and losing Brook Lopez to injury. I’m skill skeptical of some things that we’ve worked for the Cavaliers over the last few games 0 mostly Jarrett Jack scoring consistently and relatively efficiently – and Brooklyn has played the Cavaliers tough each time these teams has played. I’ll take the Nets 99, Cavaliers 94.