Extra Pass: Cavs take on slumping Nets

Published March 23, 2023, 3:00 PMPolo Bustamante

Watch the Nets and Cavs vie for an all-important win live at 7:30 AM on NBA League Pass.

What’s up with the Cleveland Cavaliers?

The Cavaliers went through a rough couple of games around last month. They lost four of five games before and right after the All-Star weekend putting them in peril of losing their top four spot in the East. They have since righted the ship and have won seven of their last nine games.

Their most recent win came against fellow East playoff hopeful, the Brooklyn Nets. In that game, the Cavaliers used a strong push in the middle quarters to run away with the win. Donovan Mitchell led the way with 31 points and he was backed up by five other Cavs who scored in double figures.

Cleveland won the game though on the strength of their defense. They limited the Nets to just 109 points, 44.6 percent from the field, and only nine 3-pointers made at a 27.3 percent clip. By comparison, the Nets usually score 113.3 points per game at a 49 percent rate. This wasn’t even a good defensive performance by Cleveland’s standards. The Cavs allowed 114.5 points per 100 possessions, far from their league-leading 110.3 defensive rating.

After their last win over the Nets, the two teams are tied one game apiece for the season. Their next game will determine who wins the match-up this year. Though there’s no real threat for Brooklyn to tie Cleveland in the standings, this game will go a long way in boosting the Cavs’ morale heading into the playoffs.

What’s up with the Brooklyn Nets?

The Nets are in the danger zone now. They were doing well by staying away from the play-in picture with a solid stretch after the Kevin Durant trade (five wins in six games). Unfortunately, after that quick run, they’ve lost four games in a row and are now only half a game ahead of the seventh seed in the East.

The problem for the Nets has been their offense. In their last four losses, they’ve averaged only 103.5 points per game. Their loss against the Cavs was actually already one of their better offensive games. 

Losing talented scorers like Durant and Kyrie Irving was always going to negatively affect the team’s offense. Although, it seemed like it wasn’t going to be much of a problem because Spencer Dinwiddie and Mikal Bridges have stepped up to form a potent duo on the offensive end. Bridges is averaging 25.4 points as a Net, far from his 17.2 average with the Phoenix Suns. Dinwiddie is setting the table well for the team, dishing out 8.2 assists compared to his 5.3 average with the Dallas Mavericks.

It’s the rest of the team that needs to step up. Beyond these two, there haven’t been any real consistent threats to score for the team. Nic Claxton and Cameron Johnson have been solid but not explosive. Cam Thomas can score but he hasn’t shown the willingness to do the dirty work for the team, that’s why he’s been riding the bench.

The Nets have to figure things out – quickly. Not only do they have a quick rematch against the Cavaliers, they’re also in danger of falling out of the East playoff picture completely.

Storyline to watch out for

Who are the Nets? That’s the real question coming into this game. The team has proven that they can compete with the best teams in the league. They pulled out wins over the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Denver Nuggets following the Durant trade.

It’s not a question of talent or coaching. They have enough of both to make the playoffs. The Nets need to find their identity now more than ever. This is a team that’s ranked 20th in offense and 14th in defense (in terms of ORtg and DRtg). The numbers say they’re a middling team. That’s why they need to break free from mediocrity and figure out how to beat the teams they’re supposed to beat.

Will they lean on Dinwiddie’s playmaking and Bridges’ scoring to become an explosive offensive team or will Bridges and Claxton form a potent inside-out defensive combo? The game against a tough Cavaliers team will put that to the test.


While the Nets haven’t figured their team out yet, the Cavaliers have. Cleveland’s defense is the best in the league and they’ve proven it in their last win over Brooklyn. The Cavs will prove that once again in the final match-up between both teams.