The Cavaliers reportedly want to face the Nets in the playoffs. Nothing that happened between the two teams on Tuesday night likely convinced them otherwise.
The Nets couldn’t handle New York-born superstar Donovan Mitchell and couldn’t stop the Cavaliers, losing 115-109 before a crowd of 17,732 at the Barclays Center.
Mitchell scored a game-high 31 points, threw a poster-worthy dunk over Yuta Watanabe, and sang chants of “MVP! MVP!” Honestly it looked like one.
Facing a pivotal week for postseason prospects, the Nets (39-33) have lost four straight games. The fifth-seeded Knicks are two games behind, and their once-healthy lead over seventh-seeded Miami has been reduced to just half a game. The Knicks and Heat were idle on Tuesday night, but will face each other on Wednesday night in Miami.
The Nets will host the Cavaliers (46-28) again on Thursday evening, before heading to Miami on Saturday to conclude this crucial week of matches.
After the Nets led 30-23 after one quarter, the Heat started the second quarter with a 23-8 lead to take the lead. Then, the Nets surrendered 23-5 early in the third period to lose the game.
Mitchell’s star power and Cleveland’s size advantage proved (indirectly at least) too much to handle. The Nets smashed the boards to already outpace the Cavaliers 49-34, but paid for it with a lack of rushing breakout leaks and an inability to defend the arc. The Cavaliers shot 14-for-29 from 3-point range.
Reserve center Dayron Sharp led the scoring with 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench, while Spencer Dinwiddie added 19 points and 11 assists. But Nets was only 9 for 31 from behind the arc.
The drawbacks that the fourth-seeded Cavaliers were hoping for in a first-round matchup with the Nets instead of the Knicks, according to Cleveland.com, were on full display.
“I heard something like that too. I don’t know if they think it’s sweet or not,” said Nick Claxton, who had 13 points and eight rebounds. from the seed. And if that’s our rivalry, we’ll take care of them.”
It will take some improvement.
The Nets ran out to lead 30-23 after seven points and five rebounds in the first quarter from Claxton.
The lead was still 32-27 with 10:50 left in the first half after Mikal Bridges (18 points) hit a faded mid-range off a Seth Curry feed. But the Cleveland Blitz’s 16-4 blitz changed all that.
The Nets only shot 2-for-8 over that span, including just 1-for-4 in the paint, and the Cavaliers turned the momentum around. By the time former Garrett Allen (12 points, 14 boards) piled on a hook shot, Cleveland was leading 43-36.
And Caresse LeVert, another former netball traded away in a James Harden trade, found Sidi Osman, who scored to make it 46-38 Cavaliers with 5:01 left in the half.
The Nets were still hanging at the break, down just 61-55. But upon exiting the locker room, they completely lost touch.
Having already given up one big series to open the second quarter, the Nets gave up another run early in the third and gave up all hope of winning. Mitchell’s 3-pointer was the final dagger in the Cavaliers’ 23-5 offense.
The nets were so cold during the game’s seal round that they missed seven of nine shots. And Cleveland went 9-for-13, capped by a crossover by Mitchell creating space from Dorian Vinnie Smith and Mitchell’s ensuing pull. That shot cushioned the Cavaliers to 84-60 with 6:16 left in the third.
LeVert’s fake 3-pointer to beat the buzzer, which made it 94-78 going into the fourth quarter, was the most exciting play of the night. That was, until one minute into the fourth, when Mitchell threw a savage quickie at Watanabe, fanning the Nets forward.
Cam Johnson hit a running 3-pointer to pull the lead within 108-97 with 4:43 left to play. They’ve come within six points a few times, but no closer.
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