The Cavaliers struggled in a pair of games in the middle of the previous month. They were in danger of falling out of the top four in the Eastern Conference after suffering losses of four out of five games before and immediately after the All-Star weekend. They have recently turned things around and won seven of their past nine games. They were previously losing games.
Their most recent victory came against a team from the East that is also contending for the playoffs: the Brooklyn Nets. In that game, the Cavaliers could pull away with the victory by using a powerful push in the middle quarters. Donovan Mitchell led the way for the Cavaliers with 31 points, and he was supported by five other players who scored in double digits for the game.
Nonetheless, Cleveland was able to win the game because of the effectiveness of their defense. They held the Nets to just 109 points, corresponding to a field goal percentage of 44.6, and they allowed the Nets to make only nine three-point shots at a clip of 27.3. In comparison, the Nets average 113.3 points scored per game while shooting 49 percent from the field. This wasn’t a nice showing, even by the norms of Cleveland’s defensive play. The Cavaliers had the best defensive rating in the NBA at 110.3, but they let opponents score 114.5 points per 100 possessions.
With the Cavaliers’ most recent victory against the Nets, the two clubs have the same win total for the season. The outcome of their next battle will decide who comes out on top of the competition this year. Even though there is very little chance that Brooklyn will catch up to Cleveland in the standings, this game will go a long way toward boosting the morale of the Cavaliers as they prepare for the postseason.
The Nets are now in a precarious position. They were doing very well by keeping themselves out of the play-in picture with a strong series of games following Kevin Durant’s transaction (five wins in six games). Sadly, after that quick run, they have since lost four games in a row, and their lead over the seventh seed in the East has shrunk to a half-game.
The offense has been the primary source of difficulty for the Nets. They’ve gone winless in their previous four games, scoring 103.5 points per contest on average. The game they lost to the Cavaliers was already one of their more successful offensive efforts.
It was inevitable that the club’s offense would suffer when skilled scorers like Durant and Kyrie Irving were removed from the lineup. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be much of an issue since Spencer Dinwiddie, and Mikal Bridges had emerged as a formidable tandem on the attacking end of the court. While Bridges was with the Phoenix Suns, he averaged 17.2 points per game, but with the Brooklyn Nets, he averaged 25.4 points. Compared to his average with the Dallas Mavericks of 5.3 assists per game, Dinwiddie is now setting the stage very well for the squad by giving out 8.2 assists per game.
It’s time for the rest of the squad to show what they’re made of. Other than these two, there haven’t been any other players on the club who have been a significant danger to score continuously. Nic Claxton and Cameron Johnson have been reliable but not very exciting. Cam Thomas can score, but since he hasn’t shown a desire to put in the hard work required for the team, he’s been sitting on the bench.
The Nets need to find out what’s happening as soon as possible. Not only do they have a rematch against the Cavs coming up quickly, but there is also a chance that they may be eliminated from the postseason picture in the East entirely.