The Cleveland Cavaliers will be traveling to Brooklyn shorthanded for their matchup with the Nets. Anderson Varejao is still nursing his bruised knee, Samardo Samuels was recently assigned to the Canton Charge and Daniel Gibson suffered a concussion in the loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday. A team that already isn’t deep to begin with will be missing their best defensive asset and somewhat of a role player in Gibson. Brooklyn is relatively healthy at this point in the season and is boasting no significant injuries at the moment. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Barclays Center, which will be the second time that the Cavs have played at the new arena. The game can be watched on the Fox Sports Ohio channel and will be broadcasted on the radio at WTAM 1100 and WFUN 970. Here are some statistics to get you ready for the matchup:
Cavaliers (7-24, 4-14 away)
Offensive Efficiency – 97.2 (29th)
Pace – 94.4 (14th)
Turnover Ratio – 14.1 (17th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage – 46.0 (28th)
Defensive Efficiency – 105.6 (27th)
Average Points –93.7 (24th)
Average Rebounds – 42.0 (16th)
Average Assists – 19.2 (30th)
Average Points Allowed –99.2 (20th)
Nets (15-14, 10-7 home)
Offensive Efficiency – 102.9 (11th)
Pace – 90.3 (29th)
Turnover Ratio – 13.7 (8th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage – 48.6 (14th)
Defensive Efficiency – 104.0 (21st)
Average Points – 94.5 (22nd)
Average Rebounds – 41.4 (19th)
Average Assists – 20.5 (22nd)
Average Points Allowed – 94.4 (6th)
If there is one thing that you need to know about the Cavaliers regarding their 24 losses, its that they have either held the lead or trailed by six points or less entering the final 12 minutes in 20 of those games. Inexperience is killing the Cavs despite their leading scorer having the moniker of Mr. Fourth Quarter. If you look at most of the elite teams in the NBA (San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Los Angeles Clippers), they rank among the top five in fourth quarter scoring. If the Cavaliers want to improve, they have to be able to close out tight games. On Saturday the Wine and Gold will match up against a team with a worse points per game average in the final 12 minutes in the Nets, who average only 21.8 points (29th in NBA) in that category. Cleveland is only a notch better, with an average of 21.9 points.
With Gibson being out, we will again see Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving accounting for much of Cleveland’s scoring as they normally do. However, the Cavs were outhustled on Friday by a speedy Atlanta offense that ranks fifth in the league in fast break points per game. Brooklyn again ranks 29th in that same category, but without Varejao in the lineup, interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo will feed the ball to Brook Lopez as much as possible like he did in their last win over the Bobcats. This will spell trouble for the Cavaliers if they don’t take advantage of Brooklyn’s struggling defense against the pick-and-roll. The Nets thought with bringing in Joe Johnson that some of their defensive troubles would be lessened, but the exact opposite has happened. If Kyrie can get free on offense, we could see another career performance from the shot-creating point guard.
On the other side of things, Deron Williams has recently been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. From his own team of beat reporters to his inefficiency in putting up shots, some have questioned the prima-donna attitude of the Brooklyn ball handler. However, Williams seems to like matching up against the undersized Irving like most ones in the league. His defense has been questionable all season long, and the Cleveland leader can’t keep letting his opponents match him in scoring. That does no good for the team.
Without Varejao in the lineup, I’m just picturing now Lopez having a career night against the rookie Tyler Zeller. Zeller has been one of the most frustrating Cavaliers to watch as of late, and has been pushed around by opposing offensive threats. This spells trouble for Cleveland, and I don’t see them leaving Brooklyn with a win because of it.