Game 74: Cavs at Nets
They didn't approach this game with any urgency. They need all the wins they can get at this point. They are 3 1/2 games behind No. 8 Atlanta in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Only eight games remain in the season.
The Nets s snapped the Cavs' three-game winning streak. Brooklyn has won 12 in a row at home, one off their franchise record.
They've hung in the race despite playing without their two best bigs - Kevin Garnett (back spasms) and Brook Lopez (fractured right foot) - and valuable reserve forward Andrei Kirilenko.
Nets coach Jason Kidd has put an interesting lineup on the court. He's taken "going small" to a new extreme. He has four smalls on the court along with center Mason Plumlee. Having Tristan Thompson trying to guard Paul Pierce at the 3-point line was frightening to me coming into the game. He just doesn't like venturing out of the paint, and is not an effective defender in open space.
So, what happens. Thompson got lost on the defensive end and Pierce scored 17 of his game-high 22 points in the first quarter. If I can identify a potential problem area from my living room before the game, what are the Cavs' legion of coaches doing?
The Cavs had to leave it all out on the court. They've now lost their last five outings at the Barclays Center, including an 89-82 setback on Jan. 4.
I think it's possible that the Cavs catch the Hawks, who have lost five in a row. The team that might muck up the whole thing is the Knicks, currently 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cavs in the East.
The Cavs just have to keep winning and let the chips fall where they may.
Cavs guard Kyrie Irving (strained left biceps tendon) seems to be inching closer to a return to the court. There's still no time table for his return.
A couple things jumped out at me in the game:
--The Nets outrebounded the Cavs, 41-35, which is a joke. They are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league (ranked 28th in the league). They had just 17 rebounds in a game this year.
--The Nets shot 54.9 percent from the field. The Cavs just didn't put up much resistance the entire night.
--The Nets outscored the Cavs from the 3-point line, 42-30.
--Brooklyn's bench dominated action and outscored the Cavs, 48-18.
UP NEXT: The Cavs host Indiana at 3 p.m. Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.
C Spencer Hawes (7-1, 245) vs. Mason Plumlee (6-11, 235)
Nets - F/C Kevin Garnett, C Brook Lopez