No wonder the Cavaliers want the Nets in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs this season.
If that hypothetical series is anything like the Nets’ 115-109 loss to the Cavaliers on Tuesday, Cleveland could also have a first-round bye.
The reports emerged from Cleveland on March 17, suggesting the Cavaliers staff would rather take on the floundering Nets in the first round of the playoffs than any other opponent. Hours later, the Cavs handed the Nets their fourth straight loss in a game that never really felt close.
Cavs All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland combined for 48 points, and Cleveland’s pair of 7-footers in Evan Mobley and former net Jarrett Allen created an imposing presence against an undersized Brooklyn team that he ranks next to last in the league in rebounding. .
The Nets were simply outplayed. They led 30-23 early in the second quarter before the Cavaliers outscored them, 53-32, to take a 24-point third-quarter lead.
And they succumbed to the same kind of star power they delivered at the trade deadline when The Spida Mitchell Show aired on The Clays on Tuesday night.
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Mitchell finished with a game-high 31 points on 10-of-22 shooting from the field. In the second quarter, the Cavs star made 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions and went in for a third that was blocked from behind by his old Utah Jazz teammate Royce O’Neale.
In the top of the fourth, Mitchell attacked reserve forward Yuta Watanabe and put him on a banner with a one-handed tomahawk which sent the crowd into a frenzy.
However, as favorable as the matchup the Cavs reportedly found with the Nets, the reverse also rings true: the Nets’ unlikely path to a second-round playoff appearance, provided they qualify for the postseason and maintain status. of playoffs during the last 10 games of the regular season. Games: See your most efficient and realistic route with the first pit stops through Cleveland.
“If I had the option of playing a team that just came together three weeks ago versus playing Giannis (Antetokounmpo), or something of that nature… I mean, I think that would be the most logical answer you could give,” said starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie in a recent podcast appearance. “So, I don’t think it’s bulletin board material.”
Tuesday’s loss left the Nets (39-33) just a half-game behind the seventh-seeded Miami Heat. If the Heat can secure a win against the Knicks on Wednesday, they’ll pass the Nets in the standings.
The Nets will also play the Heat in Miami after Thursday’s encore matchup against the Cavaliers, and then play a long, athletic and energetic Orlando Magic on the road the following night.
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Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said he hadn’t read the reports that the Cavaliers want his team in the first round of the playoffs, but it’s clear that Brooklyn has a lot of work ahead of it if it wants to qualify for the postseason. .
“I really try to tell the guys to look at it like today’s game. That’s really how I approached it this morning during target practice. That’s been a bit of my message, I’ll say it again today: take care of today’s job and we’ll move on to the next day,” he said. “I haven’t really seen it as a series or a potential matchup. I don’t know who you’re going to play in this, West or East. Every night you wake up to a different score than you thought there was going to be with two teams playing. One team plays double overtime and then they go out the next night and win a game. You’re like, ‘how did they do that on a back to back?’ You don’t know who’s going to win, who you’re going to play against, that’s why you worry about today’s work”.
Former net Caris LeVert finished with 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, and former Nets star big man Allen had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Dinwiddie finished with 19 points and 11 assists, and Mikal Bridges scored 18 points but missed all eight of his attempts from center.
The Nets now prepare to face the same Cavs team again, much like a playoff series with a repeat matchup two days later. If it came to a playoff series, the Nets would be the underdog, a status that will likely remain in Brooklyn for the rest of the season.
Nets backup center Moses Brown has yet to play a minute in Brooklyn. Brown is now five days into his 10-day contract with the Nets, but his 7-2 record hasn’t worked its way into Vaughn’s rotation.
Second-year center Day’Ron Sharpe got the nod Tuesday and posted his fourth career double-double in a bench loss to the Cavaliers behind Nic Claxton. Sharpe set a new career-high in scoring with 20 points and 11 rebounds and hit a 3-pointer to make it a five-point game in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter.