The Cleveland Cavaliers had a big one Friday night in Brooklyn against the Nets. The winner of this game would have possession of the seventh seed in the East.
Brooklyn led by as many as 17 points, but Cleveland did take their first lead in the third. However, Brooklyn dominated the fourth and defeated the Cavs 118-107 at Barclays Center.
Kevin Durant had a game-high 36 points; Kyrie Irving and Bruce Brown added 18 points apiece; Brown also added 10 rebounds. All five of Brooklyn’s starters scored in double figures.
Cleveland(43-38) has now lost three straight and dropped to eighth in the East, while the Nets(43-38) have won three straight. Brooklyn won the season series(3-1) over the Cavs, which means they are the seventh seed.
Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Nets:
The Great for the Cavs:
-Darius Garland played like a superstar against Brooklyn. He shot 12/24 from the field, including three threes, and finished with 31 points in 41 minutes of action. The All-Star scored 21 of those 31 points in the second and third quarters. He probably should have played the whole second half, but we’ll get to that later.
-Evan Mobley was back after missing five games with a sprained ankle, and he picked up where he left off. The rookie had 17 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. He also became the eighth Cavs rookie to go over 1000 points in a season. Mobley plays winning basketball, and everything he does contributes to winning.
-Lamar Stevens did not fill up the box score as he only had two points on 1/5 shooting from the field to go along with two rebounds, but he did defend his butt off in the third quarter when the Cavs were making their run. Kevin Durant still got his points; however, late in the third, he forced two Durant turnovers. It wasn’t enough, but give Stevens credit.
Second and Third Quarters: Cleveland trailed 34-19 after the first quarter and looked dead in the water. However, in the second quarter, things got better. Garland had 10 points in the quarter; Cleveland outscored Brooklyn 35-28 and trailed 62-54 at the break.
In the third, things got even better for the Cavs. Brooklyn led 70-60 with just under ten minutes left in the quarter, but Cleveland outscored Brooklyn 28-13 the rest of the third and led by as many as seven. Garland again was big time as he had 11 points in the quarter. The Cavs outscored Brooklyn 34-21 in the third and took an 88-83 lead into the fourth.
Cleveland outscored Brooklyn 69-49 in the second and third quarters.
The Not So Great for the Cavs:
First Quarter: Cleveland did not get the start they wanted. Brooklyn shot 57% from the field, including 4/8 from deep. On the other hand, Cleveland shot 40% from the floor, including 0/7 from downtown. The Cavs had issues stopping Durant, who had 16 points in the quarter. Brooklyn took their largest lead of the game at 34-17 and led 34-19 after one.
Second Chance Points: Brooklyn is a great offensive team. They are tough to stop, but they become even harder to control when you give them second and third chances. The Nets outrebounded the Cavs 45-31, and Brooklyn had 25-second chance points Friday night, which is a lot. Rebounding is a big part of defense, and Cleveland had difficulty closing the possessions with a rebound.
Fourth Quarter: Cleveland had all the momentum going into the fourth, but the Nets have firepower for days, and it’s hard to keep them from scoring. Brooklyn went on a 10-4 run to start the fourth to take the lead for good. The Nets led by as many as 15 points in the fourth. The Cavs appeared to run out of gas in the fourth as the Nets outscored them 35-19 in the quarter.
The first 3:09 of the Fourth: You hate to be critical of anybody in this one, but Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff may have made a mistake by resting Garland early in the fourth. Garland was rolling, and so was the team while he was on the court. He did play the whole second and third quarters; however, Garland did get rest at halftime and before the start of the fourth. The Cavs should have ridden its young star to the end. Brooklyn took the lead back while Garland was on the bench and never relinquished it.
Cleveland battled in this one, and they played their hearts out, but Brooklyn is Brooklyn, so winning this game would be tough. The Cavs have to start better to beat a team of Brooklyn’s caliber.
Fortunately, the eighth-seeded Cavs got a little help as the Hawks fell to the Heat, which allowed Cleveland to hold the eighth seed and keep the eighth seed if they beat the Bucks in the season finale. The Cavs can still get the seventh seed, but they need to win and Brooklyn to lose to the Pacers at home, which is highly unlikely.
So, Cleveland could be returning to Brooklyn next Tuesday for the 7-8 game in the Play-In Tournament.
However, unfortunately, Cleveland could fall to the 10th seed if they lose to the Bucks, and Charlotte(Wizards), Atlanta(@Rockets), and Brooklyn(Pacers) win their final game, which would be disastrous.
Getting the eighth seed won’t be easy for Cleveland as the Bucks are still fighting for the second seed in the East, so Sunday’s game should be very interesting.
Remember, the seventh and eighth seeds have two games to win one, while the ninth and tenth seeded teams have to win twice to make the playoffs.
“I’m proud of the way they played and proud of the effort that they played with, the way they kept coming back and staying in the game,” Bickerstaff said after the game.
The Cavs return home to battle the Bucks in the regular-season finale.
Best of the Rest:
-Lauri Markkanen had 17 points; Caris LeVert added 16, and Kevin Love had 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
-Andre Drummond had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds for Brooklyn.
-Cavs shot 8/27 from three-point range.
Listen below as the Garland and Drummond react to loss to Brooklyn: