NBA Film Room: Nets Showed Off Potential In Win Over Cavaliers

Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, NBA Film Room
NBA Analysis Network

The Brooklyn Nets grabbed a convincing win over the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 in the first game of the Eastern Conference side of the NBA Play-In Tournament.

Jumping out to a 40-20 lead by the end of the first quarter, the Nets never looked back, leading to the finish. The Cavaliers’ initial game plan proved unsuccessful. With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant playing like the superstars, the Cavs quickly found themselves with a considerable deficit.

Let’s track the flow of the game quarter-by-quarter.

The Cavaliers came in to the game with a clear defensive mindset: let Bruce Brown, Andre Drummond, Seth Curry – anyone not named Irving or Durant – shoot the ball.

While it sounds like the right plan in theory, it started to backfire when Brown and Drummond were actually making the shots they were given.

The Cavaliers’ game plan on offense was equally good in theory – and equally unsuccessful.

Entering the game with a substantial size advantage, the Cavs hoped to capitalize by getting their fleet of bigs shots at the rim. The Brooklyn Nets were ready, providing adequate help around the rim – and making spectacular plays like this:

Unfortunately for the Cavs, they were unable to counter this interior help with three point shooting. The team shot 1-for-8 from three in the first quarter, even though many looks were wide open due to the amount of help converging on the paint.

In conjunction with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant shooting a combined 8-for-8 on the shots, they were able to get free for those two-game plan mishaps that put the Cavs at a significant deficit with three quarters to play.

Credit to the Cavs – they didn’t throw in the towel, despite the 20-point deficit.

The Cavaliers came out in the second quarter playing vastly improved defense. The Cavs were able to force seven turnovers in the quarter and got a bit more help from the Brooklyn Nets’ role players. Nets not named Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving shot a combined 1-for-9 in the quarter. That, in conjunction with the turnovers, should’ve gotten the Cavaliers firmly back in the game.

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Unfortunately, the Cavs just could not pick things up on the offensive end.

A fair portion of the Cavs’ offensive struggles in the second quarter should fall on Caris LeVert, who went 0-for-5 from the field in the quarter. LeVert tried to use his size to dominate the Nets’ smaller guard defenders, but he couldn’t get a shot to fall.

Key buckets from the veteran Kevin Love kept the Cavs afloat (along with their improved defense). The team was leading 13-7 in the quarter until Kyrie returned to the floor. It looked like the Cavs might take a closer game into half – that is until the final minute of the quarter, when Kyrie Irving decided to shoot like the Cavs’ defense was non-existent.

The Nets’ elite offense returned in the third quarter – this time taking a new form.

The Nets eviscerated Cleveland’s defense by making extra passes, and keeping the ball moving faster than the defense could rotate. Brooklyn had 10 assists in the quarter on 11 field goals, finding soft spots in Cleveland’s zone defense and pick-and-roll coverages.

Many of the assists came directly off of another pass – making the defense move with the initial pass, and then slicing through with a second pass to an easy bucket.

Cleveland was able to stay in the game, though, thanks to point guard Darius Garland. After spending the first half trying to set up Cleveland’s bigs (which netted just 3 assists to 2 turnovers), Garland finally looked to score for himself.

Adding onto Garland’s scoring, Mobley contributed 7 points in the quarter, and the Cavs’ supporting cast finally began to hit their outside shots. Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo, and Caris LeVert went a combined 3-for-4 from three in the quarter, keeping the Cavaliers in the game heading into the fourth.

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Garland’s takeover continued into the fourth quarter, in which he scored 16 of his game-high 34 points.

Taking advantage of the Nets’ weakest defenders – their guards – Garland shot 6-of-9, including 2-of-3 on threes. Garland was able to punish switches as well, even on Kevin Durant, whose length and quickness make him an intimidating defender.

The Cavaliers defense was able to keep a lid on the Nets’ scoring for most of the quarter, holding all (but one) of the non-Irving/Durant players to 3-of-9 shooting for six points. But midway through the fourth, the Cavs’ defense sprung a leak that looked all too familiar.

With extra passes, like they’d done to start the second half, the Nets were again able to slice through the Cavaliers’ defense. Center Nic Claxton scored 9 points in the quarter on 100% shooting from the field thanks to beautiful Nets ball movement.

Ultimately, the Nets were able to score enough to keep a comfortable lead and secure the win over Cleveland. The number of shots the Nets could generate at the rim in the second half highlighted how much the Cleveland Cavaliers missed center Jarrett Allen, who the team will no doubt need back if they hope to make a run this postseason.

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Offensively, the Cavs had a challenging game – but were still able to stay in the contest versus Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Nets will likely need their supporting cast to step up more than they did today if they hope to take down Boston in the first round of the playoffs.

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