The Brooklyn Nets (44-38, 16-25 away) were comfortable with where they were at in regards to the Eastern Conference playoff standings. They pondered not having to play the Bulls – 1-2 head-to-head record on the season – and instead going head to head against division rival the Toronto Raptors (2-2). Chicago is a bad matchup for the Nets in regards to size and athleticism, so a team like Toronto, with a struggling frontcourt, is a much better matchup for the Nets. Regardless, the Cleveland Cavaliers (33-49, 19-22 home) made quick work of the Nets’ backups, fighting as if they still had a chance at making the postseason. The 110-81 victory may not mean much, but this team – if they stick together in the future – can wreck the Easter Conference next season.
Cleveland took the court against a resting Nets unit, and at first they succumbed to Brooklyn’s quickset offense. Following a timeout the Cavaliers were able to rebound back and take a 15-13 lead over Brooklyn early on in the contest. Although Brooklyn was resting most of their stars for the postseason (i.e. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce), Cleveland wasn’t looking to take the Nets lightly, so they came out with a strong response to the Nets’ early attack.
As the pace of the game picked up, the Cavaliers took advantage of Brooklyn’s unprepared starting core. After getting off to a slow start, the Cavs were able to extend their lead to 10 with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Cleveland’s swarming defense and aggressive inside presence helped to give the Cavs the early advantage over the playoff-bound Nets.
A sloppy final possession for the Cavs resulted in a Dion Waiters’ three, extending the Cleveland lead to 33-21 over Brooklyn after the first quarter. The Cavs continued to apply the same techniques that they have been over the past dozen games. A ravenous defense combined with an energetic offense has made Cleveland a force to reckon with over the past few weeks of the regular season. The question that always remains is that whether or not this team can keep it up for the full four quarters.
Even though Brooklyn wasn’t going with their A-squad, the Cavaliers should have continued to sport their premier second unit and some first unit guys to start the second set of 12 minutes in order to avoid ending the season on an embarrassing note. However, the Nets started the second frame on a mini run that brought them to within one point of Cleveland. Following an official timeout with Cleveland up 40-38 on the Nets, the two teams matched each other over the final five-plus minutes, bringing a 51-49 score to halftime.
Although Cleveland was looking very quick at times, Brooklyn quickly erased any attempt of the Cavs trying to pull away from the Nets. In order to win the second half and end the season with a victory, Cleveland would need to run the Nets off the court and share the ball constantly with whoever possessed the hot hand. In this specific situation Waiters, who scored a team-high 12 points in the first half, once again manned up and helped the Cavaliers pull away from the Nets in the third. Dion’s leadership has been key for the Cavs down the stretch, and the reduction in the madness of his shot selection has really improved his overall game. Waiters has proven that he’s a keep in the long-term building process of the Cavs in 2014 and beyond.
Up by 13 points with just over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, Brooklyn called for a timeout in an attempt to slow down Cleveland before the final frame. However, Cleveland was able to combat a Brooklyn comeback by going on a 15-9 run to end the half, carrying an 81-64 immense lead into the final 12 minutes of play at Quicken Loans Arena during the 2013-14 season.
Following the start of the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers exploded on the Nets with an additional 10-point advantage around the four-minute mark, making the score an extraordinary 104-77. Although the crew of Williams, Pierce, Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Mirza Teletovic, the Brooklyn reserves still battled back hard. They just didn’t have enough to combat multiple Cleveland barrages.
The game and season for the Cavaliers ended with a 110-81 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. It couldn’t have been more ironic, as Cleveland started off the 2013-14 campaign with a home victory against the Nets. Now an offseason full of questions yet again awaits the Cavaliers.
PG Kyrie Irving – 15 points, five assists and three steals, while shooting 6 of 12 from the filed
Although Kyrie didn’t average as many point as he did last season, he did lock down a second All-Star honor and he came in through in the clutch when the Cavs needed him. Although he did miss time this season, Irving managed to compete and start in 86.7percent of the 82 games this regular season. Although he didn’t put up staggering numbers in his final game of the season, he has show progression in other areas such as rebounding and assisting.
SG Dion Waiters – 19 points, while shooting 7 of 12 (58.3 percent) from the field
Dion continues to step up whether he’s playing a secondary role or having to take the bulk of shots because of the attention being paid to Kyrie. I believe that Waiters has proven himself over the past few weeks that he can be a long-term piece for the Cavs and that he can be a prolific scorer for the Cavs heading into the future.
SF Alonzo Gee – 12 points, five rebounds and two steals, while shooting 5 of 9 (55.6 percent) from the field
Gee stepped in and did what he needed to do as the Cavaliers’ starting three. There’s not much more you can ask from a player who was asked to fill in.
PF Tristan Thompson – 11 points and 10 rebounds (five offensive), while shooting 5 of 9 (55.6 percent) from the field
Thompson started the game off quick nicely and ended up recording a double-double. Although I was very disappointed in the play of Thompson over the past couple months, there are glimmers of hope that Thompson can be a destructive force down low. I saw glimpses of that last night, but we need to see it more consistently.
C Spencer Hawes – 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, while shooting 4 of 7 (57.1 percent) from the field and 2 of 4 from three
Two early threes by Hawes really set the tone for the Cavs, continuing the nature of piling on the massive lead that Cleveland was pouring on the Nets. Haws has proven that he is a keeper for Cleveland, and he needs to be back next season to cause more havoc for the Cavs.
C Tyler Zeller – 22 points, 11 rebounds (four offensive) and two blocks, while shooting 9 of 11 (81.8 percent) from the field
Zeller hasn’t been lumped in this category for some time, but his ability to work hand-in-hand with the offense really helped to pad his stats. Zeller will be a great commodity off the bench for the Cavs next year, and if he can continue to strengthen up, bigs better beware.
I didn’t like that Coach Brown put in players like Anthony Bennett so early in the game. I understand it’s the last game, but let’s keep the momentum going. Yes, the game was out of reach by a certain point, but at the time Bennett was called in the Cavs were on their way to blowing another double-digit lead. Not too special from Coach Brown in this department, so we’ll further access his work following the end of the regular season (which is…NOW.).