Brooklyn Nets (21-54) 87
Cleveland Cavaliers (53-22) 107
Hey, the Cavs got themselves a blowout win! Over a team that they were supposed to beat! At home! It was just the Nets — preface every single sentence with that if you’d like — and they didn’t even have Brook Lopez, as the Nets rested him Thursday for some reason. It’s not like they have any incentive to lose down the stretch, as they’re sending their first-round pick to the Boston Celtics. It benefited the Cavs, at least. Lopez beat ’em up inside to the tune of 22 points in 32 minutes a week ago, and the Nets didn’t have any one reliable offensive option without him in the middle.
So yeah, it was just the Nets, and the Lopez-less Nets at that, but a 20-point win sure feels nice. The Nets hung around for a little while early, but the Cavs never looked back after a LeBron James layup put them ahead, 15-14, with 4:24 to go in the first quarter.
It was just a nice win. The result was basically decided at halftime — the Cavs led at the break, 63-39 — and the starters got plenty of rest ahead of Friday night’s game in Atlanta. Kevin Love had his third very-good game out of the last five. LeBron was hyper-efficient. Timofey Mozgov even hit a fadeaway jumper after a little shimmy shake in the post. Aside from rough shooting nights for the Cavs point guards, there wasn’t much to be unhappy about.
One thing that I enjoyed: The Cavs were trying fun stuff. The results weren’t always great — there were at least two botched alley-oops — but it was still fun. If the general feeling is that the Cavs are just playing out the string to get to the playoffs, why not throw the rock around a little bit and see what happens? It’s times like this that I’m glad J.R. Smith is on the squad. (When he’s picking up a technical in a close game? Not so much.)
If the defender wasn’t there, that alley-oop pass totally would’ve worked. And on that note, let’s look at some numbers.
.372/.190/.619 — The Nets shot B-A-D- bad from the field. Thaddeus Young had a decent night (18 points, 9-of-18) and a youngster named Chris McCullough provided a boost in the first half, but on the whole they couldn’t find the bucket. Their poor shooting wasn’t all due to the Cavs’ defense, but at least some of it was. The Cavs seemed to deny passing lanes with a bit more urgency and generally played with cohesion on the defensive end. It was the Nets without Lopez, so there’s probably nothing meaningful to be derived from it, but hey, it’s a start.
Their first half was awful, and it didn’t get much better.
Nets first-half shot chart. Missed all 11 3-pointers. 8 turnovers led to 16 Cavaliers points. pic.twitter.com/m8nIeCjUwM
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) April 1, 2016
4-of-8 — Kevin Love hit half of his eight three-point tries en route to a 19-point, 10-rebound outing. It was Love’s fifth double-double in a row and nearly his third 20-10 outing in the past five games. He scored his 19 points on just 10 shots (plus 3-of-4 from the foul line). He’s been chucking from deep quite a bit lately — 7.6 per game over the last five, two more than his season average. Perhaps he’s been waiting until the playoffs to get his stroke right? One can dream.
8-of-11 — LeBron concluded his brilliant March (25.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists) with another strong outing. He went 8-of-11 from the floor, with every single field goal attempt coming in the paint. He scored 24 points and dished out 11 assists. He passed Dominique Wilkins for 12th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, with Oscar Robertson up next. This season alone, LeBron has passed, in order, Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Alex English, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, John Havlicek, Tim Duncan, and now ‘Nique among all-time NBA scorers. He also had a steal and slam late in the second quarter that gave the Cavs some juice going into halftime.
0-of-5 — One guy who didn’t have a great game was Kyrie Irving. He scored 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting, and missed all five of his threes. It was uncertain if he would even play against Brooklyn, so I don’t reckon it’s much to get worked up about.
0-for-everything — Another guy who didn’t have a great game was Matthew Dellavedova. He was 0-for-6 from the field, including three misses from deep. He did pick up five rebounds and four fouls when he was out there.
19 — Remember Henry Sims? He started for Brooklyn in Brook Lopez’s place and played 19 minutes. Four points and five rebounds in that time. Good on Henry.
76 — The Cavs assisted on 29 of their 38 field goals, or 76 percent. They moved the ball, hit some shots, and maybe even had some fun. That’s marvelous.