New Jersey Nets (2-22) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (17-7)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
7:00 PM EST
Remember when LeBron James said he wasn’t going to talk about free agency anymore? So far he’s stuck to it like a champ and we haven’t heard a peep out of him about it. Tonight could be a temptation, though. The Cleveland Cavaliers take on the New Jersey Nets in the Q tonight. You know the story by now. LeBron is friends with Jay-Z, Jay-Z is a minority owner of the Nets, the Nets are moving to Brooklyn in 2009 in 2010 someday, Brooklyn is a NY borough, LeBron loves New York, LeBron loves the New York Yankees, CC Sabathia pitches for the Yankees, Sabathia used to pitch in Cleveland, therefore LeBron will play for the Nets next year. So it’s only reasonable to expect the NJ media who travels to Cleveland tonight to want to ask LeBron what it’s going to be like when he’s playing for them next year. We’ll see if LeBron bites.
As for on the court, the Cavaliers are going to be playing one of the worst basketball teams ever assembled. I mean, this team is historically bad. I think we all knew they would be bad, but I don’t know as if anyone knew they were going to be quite this awful. You might be tempted to think this is a trap game, with the Cavs playing a 2-22 team at home before having to travel to Philly tomorrow, but if the Cavaliers allow this game to be even interesting, let alone if they lose this game, then they have no business considering themselves contenders. After a couple solid wins in a row making up for a couple tough losses, it would be an awful shame for the Cavaliers to have another letdown so soon.
Projected Starting Lineup
New Jersey Nets:
-G Devin Harris (16.9 ppg, 5.5 apg, 1.9 spg, 16.38 PER)
-G Courtney Lee (11.2 ppg, 1.9 apg, .250 3P%, 13.82 PER)
-F Trenton Hassell (7.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.8 apg, 8.05 PER)
-F Josh Boone (4.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 13.34 PER)
-C Brook Lopez (19.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 20.76 PER)
Key Reserves: Rafer Alston, Terrence Williams, Bobby Simmons, Eduardo Najera, Keyon Dooling, Sean Williams
Injuries: Chris Douglas-Roberts (out), Yi Jianlian (out), Jarvis Hayes (out), Keyon Dooling (questionable), Tony Battie (questionable)
-G Mo Williams (16.9 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.4 apg, 16.22 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (7.6 ppg, 1.6 apg, .500 3P%, 9.06 PER)
-F LeBron James (28.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 8.0 apg, 30.64 PER)
-F JJ Hickson (7.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.4 bpg, 13.53 PER)
-C Shaquille O’Neal (10.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 14.66 PER)
Key Reserves: Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Jamario Moon
Injuries: Daniel Gibson (probable), Leon Powe (out)
Team Efficiency Stats
New Jersey Nets:
-Off (89.3 ppg, 40.4 rpg, .415 FG%, 16.3 apg, 16.0 TOpg, Eff-92.9, Rank-30)
-Def (100.1 ppg, 45.3 rpg, .470 FG%, Eff-105.0, Rank-19)
-Off (99.7 ppg, 41.5 rpg, .477 FG%, 21.1 apg, 14.8 TOpg, Eff-106.4, Rank-10)
-Def (94.4 pp, 39.1 rpg, .436 FG%, Eff-99.6, Rank-5)
Sat, Jan 2 at New Jersey
Tue, Feb 9 at Cleveland
Wed, Mar 3 at New Jersey
Lets keep this one short and simple. I mean, I hope the Cavaliers aren’t overlooking the Nets as much as I am, but in all honesty, I’ve watched this team play 2 or 3 times this year and every time they have looked beyond atrocious. It’s not even about the talent. They have good basketball players. But for whatever reason, this mix just doesn’t work together and they have very little identity. They are dead last in FG%, dead last in 3P%, 20th in fast break points, 26th in assists, dead last in turnovers, 26th in rebounding, dead last in points per game, and on and on and on.
If there’s one thing the Nets want to do, it’s score inside. They take 30.2 of their shots per game are “at the rim”, which is 3rd most in the NBA. They average an impressive 42.8 points in the paint per game, which is 9th in the NBA. This makes sense. If you can’t shoot, and you don’t move the ball around well, you had at least better try to score inside. So that’s what they do. Fortunately for the Cavaliers, Cleveland gives up the fewest points in the paint per game in the NBA, so the Cavaliers should be perfectly suited to shut down New Jersey’s offense.
When the Cavaliers are on offense, they are facing a defense that, while not great, doesn’t that bad in comparison to their offense. They do a respectable job defending the interior and they have some size and athleticism to alter shots and make life in the paint moderately difficult. What they don’t do well, though, is defend against the 3pt shot. If the Cavaliers just try to dump the ball inside to Shaq and then let LeBron take over by himself, they will be playing right into New Jersey’s hands. The key to this game will be getting the ball moving from side to side early and often. They must create open looks for their shooters. It sounds obvious, yes, but that hasn’t been the case all year for the Cavaliers.
Which brings me to my final point, focus. The Cavaliers seem to be a team content to play to the level of their opponents this year, which has been pretty frustrating. We’ve seen time and time again this year that when they want to put the effort and focus into it, they are still a really tough defensive team. The problem is, they just don’t do it enough. And on offense, far too often they allow themselves to get lazy and fall into old, bad habits of standing around and not operating the offense. The Cavaliers are playing a team that there is no excuse for them letting hang around at the Q. There’s no need for the Cavaliers to make tonight’s game any more difficult on themselves than they have to.
From The Outside Looking In
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
7:00 PM EST
Cleveland Cavaliers at Philadelphia 76ers