How many words can one throw around to describe what they witnessed when the Brooklyn Nets came to Quicken Loans Arena to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers? Abomination comes to mind first, especially if we’re talking about a synonym that goes hand in hand with the defense’s performance on Wednesday night. It was a porous effort from the start, and the Cavs’ lack of effort down low led to the team’s embarrassing demise.
When shooting guard MarShon Brooks – a player that was averaging 5.1 points going into the game – had already tripled his regular offensive output before the first half even came to a close and nothing was being done about it, you know Cleveland was in for a long night.
But why was nothing done? Why did head coach Byron Scott continue to fool around with the zone defense instead of trying to shut down Brooklyn’s hottest shooter on the night? Brooks finished with 26 points and made all nine of his attempts in the first half to finish 12-of-16 from the field.
The Cavaliers had a fork stuck in them from the start due to lethargic defense in the paint. The Wine and Gold allowed the Nets to roam free for dunk after dunk, outscoring Cleveland in the paint 12-6 after the first 12 minutes. This trend continued for the rest of the game, as Brooklyn spread the ball around in an attempt to further tire the weary Cavalier defense. Because of this the Nets stayed on the right track of keeping the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, dismantling the Cavs by a score of 113-95.
Cleveland went after Brook Lopez early on in the first quarter for good reasons. The Brooklyn center had averaged 29 points and nine rebounds in two previous matches against the Cavs (both resulting in wins) this season. While Cleveland tried to pester Lopez by forcing him to go outside, it seemed that the Wine and Gold had forgotten about almost every other player on the Nets roster when carrying out this “game plan.”
Poor defense by the Cavaliers coupled with scorching-hot shooting from the Nets in the first half (73 percent from the field!) allowed Brooklyn to put the game out of reach by only the second quarter. Brooks and Reggie Evans were the most active players on the floor early on, and Evans’ aggressiveness allowed him to grab 12 rebounds in the first half.
While the Nets were having fun taking every shot that Cleveland was giving them (they went 15-of-18 in the second quarter) and Kyrie Irving was struggling to get any phase of his game going (2-of-9 from the field in the first half), Marreese Speights was the only player giving visible effort on the court. But what does that even matter when your team allows 66 points in 24 minutes of play? Down by 30 going into the half, this game was over and the Cavs looked defeated.
Speights finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
In the third quarter, off of an inbounds pass, a play involving Deron Williams pretty much summed up Cleveland’s defensive effort. After almost every Cavalier had their backs to Williams – who was running toward the rim – Williams jumped over surprised Wine and Gold players for the bucket and an and-one conversion.
The Cavaliers closed the gap in the fourth quarter, but the game was a lost cause far before the final buzzer sounded. Cleveland will gear up for its next game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on Friday night. They will try to end their 10-game slide, with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.