The Cleveland Cavaliers should be dragging themselves back into the state of Ohio. A six-game West Coast road trip that featured a whopping six games in nine days should have crushed them. Isaac Okoro missed the entire trip, while newly-acquired backup point guard Rajon Rondo played in just three games and is now nursing an ongoing muscle injury.
The Cavs certainly felt the strain of the road blitz, but they come home the victors: a 5-1 record, the lone loss to the Golden State Warriors on Klay Thompson return night. They clobbered the Utah Jazz and eked out some wins against teams that were supposed to be better than the Cavs this season.
Now they come home to face the Brooklyn Nets, a team that beat them twice earlier in the season when the Cavs were short-handed. Now it’s the Nets that are short-handed coming into Cleveland for the rubber match. Can the Cavs break through and knock off one of the teams deemed a “true contender” in the East? Will Jarrett Allen get his revenge game?
The Cavs return home to host the Brooklyn Nets on Monday afternoon. What do you need to know about who is playing and how to bet?
The biggest storyline for the Brooklyn Nets is that they will be playing without their best player, Kevin Durant. The MVP candidate suffered a knee sprain that will likely see him miss 4-6 weeks. Luckily for the Nets they will face the Cavs on the road, which means former Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving will be available to play; as an unvaccinated person, he is ineligible to play home games in the state of New York.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Brooklyn Nets: Odds, spread, over/under
The Cavaliers (26-18) will host the Nets (27-15) on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. According to our partners over at WynnBet, the Cavs are favored by 2.5 points. The over/under is set to 220.5 total points.
The Cavs are returning home from a long road trip, playing six games in nine days. They played a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday and had Sunday off to return home to Cleveland and catch their breath. Brooklyn also played on Saturday at home before heading out to Ohio.
Cavs vs Nets: Projected starting lineups, injury report
Nets starters: Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kessler Edwards, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Claxton.
The Nets’ key injuries: Kevin Durant (out, knee); Joe Harris (out, ankle); LaMarcus Aldridge (probably, foot); Nic Claxton (questionable, hamstring); James Johnson (out, illness); Paul Millsap (out, personal)
Cavs vs Nets: Prediction
As is the norm in this crazy season, the amount of players missing each individual game is dizzying and makes for a difficult evaluation. In their first meeting Durant and Harden led the way for the Nets against a Cavs team missing all three of the starting “towers” — Markkanen, Mobley and Allen. The rematch a few days later, still without Kyrie Irving, saw Markkanen and Allen return from protocols and fall just short of the Nets in a five-point loss.
Both of those games had Kevin Durant, and did not have Kyrie Irving. They also featured a heavy dose of both Ricky Rubio and Isaac Okoro, who will not be in the lineup this afternoon. Evan Mobley will be; can the Rookie of the Year frontrunner make a splash and take one away from the Nets?
It’s unclear how much the Nets will miss Durant with Irving able to play, but it does put strain on the rotation. Head coach Steve Nash has to play more frontcourt players to make up for Durant’s heavy minutes load; Durant was fifth in the entire NBA at 36.5 minutes per game. More minutes for the likes of James Johnson and Blake Griffin is a win for the Cavs, even if they have to find a way to slow Kyrie Irving.
On the other end, however, it’s difficult to see how the Nets are going to slow down Darius Garland. The are playing rookie Kessler Edwards, the 44th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, significant minutes to give them someone to match up with opposing perimeter scorers. If Garland continues his hot streak from the last few games he should roast this overrated Brooklyn defense that just lost arguably its best defender in Kevin Durant.
It’s strange to see the Cavs finally get the respect they deserve, but with a mostly healthy roster they deserve to be favored against a Nets team missing not only Durant but also Joe Harris, Paul Millsap and potentially Nic Claxton. With James Harden being insanely up-and-down and Irving still shaking off the rust, this should be a close Cavaliers win. Given that the Cavs are just two games back of the Nets in the standings, it could be an impactful one.
Prediction: Cavaliers 107, Nets 102
The Bet: Cavs (-2.5), UNDER
Cavs vs Nets: Where to Watch
While Christmas may be the NBA’s touchstone holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. day is not far behind. They have an all-day slate of games scheduled starting around midday, and the Cavs join the afternoon slate. They play at 3:00pm ET, making the turnaround from their West Coast trip even tricker. While multiple games today are nationally televised, the Cavs will be on local television: Bally Sports Ohio for fans of the Cavs, YES Network for fans of the Nets. Everyone else around the globe can tune in on NBA League Pass.
Cleveland Cavaliers Upcoming Schedule
One more tricky game awaits in this stretch, as the Cavs immediately take to the road to play the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. The East-leading Bulls will likely be without Zach LaVine, who suffered a minor knee injury this past week, but their combination of backcourt defenders (to slow Garland) and frontcourt scorers (to test Allen and Mobley) make for a difficult matchup.
From there things begin to lighten up. The Cavaliers play seven of their next ten against teams with losing records, with six of the ten at home. They also get a bit of a breather in terms of the speed of the games, with two days off before Saturday’s home tilt against the Thunder, and no back-to-backs until February 11/12. The Cavs need to catch their breath, and they’ll have a chance to moving forward.