Nets-Cavs Game Play: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving are ready to score, but can Cleveland keep up?

Of all the teams in the Eastern Conference that you could have picked for matches, the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers were probably at the bottom of the list. The Nets were expected to contest the No. 1 seed as the favorite pre-season title, but Kevin Durant’s injury, Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status and unexpected commercial demand from James Harden led them to seed No. 7.

The Cavs, on the other hand, had modest expectations after finishing the season with the fourth-worst record in the NBA. It was a massive story, led by outstanding performances from Darius Garland, Garrett Allen and rookie Evan Mobley, along with a massive defensive shift sparked by coach JB Bickerstaff.

The teams took opposite paths to get here, but they will meet on Tuesday as the winner gets to face the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics in the first round, and the loser goes to Friday’s elimination match against the winner. Wednesday’s game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks.

Here’s a look at start time, TV info, and odds, along with three things to know for your match play.

(7) Brooklyn Nets vs (8) Cleveland Cavaliers

  • when: Tuesday 12 April | 7 p.m. Eastern time
  • where: Barclays Center – Brooklyn, New York
  • TV: TNT | Live broadcast: TNT
  • Prospect: BKN-420; CLE +320; O/U 228.5 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

Featured game | Brooklyn Nets vs Cleveland Cavaliers

1. All-out attack from KD and Kyrie

If the Brooklyn Nets are going to somehow improve their favorite pre-season despite the injuries, deals and drama associated with this season, it will be for the players: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Both are capable of scoring more than 50 points in any given game, and they may just have to give into the lack of offensive firepower in the rest of the Brooklyn team’s roster. Durant has averaged nearly 30 points this season and Irving has averaged 27.4. The team’s second highest scoring average was 14.7 for Seth Curry, and he has played only 19 games for the team.

So yes, KD and Kyrie have to sign up, but they’ll also be tasked with facilitating when Cleveland sends double teams and traps at them. Durant is a more than capable passer, as evidenced by his career 16 assists in the win over the Indiana Pacers on the final day of the regular season. When Durant has scored nine or more assists this season, the Nets have scored 9-2, compared to 7-6 when he scored 35 or more points. That’s an indication of how important it is for Durant to feature his teammates on Tuesday against Cleveland, and not necessarily looking to take on the top scorer role early on.

When Durant and Irving played together this season, they were almost unstoppable offensively. After the James Harden deal, the Nets scored 123.6 points per 100 holdings with Durant and Irving on the floor. It’s hard to contain any defense, let alone defense Missing its primary edge Because of Garrett Allen’s finger injury.

Nets coach Steve Nash has never been afraid to play his superstars for long minutes, so you better believe Durant and Irving will be on the field for most of Tuesday’s game. This means that they both have to put incredible numbers with the No. 7 seed to the test. And if it comes to the ultimate property, Durant is one of the league’s best players to come over and over again in the post-season.

2. Garland, Levert Need To Be Awesome

Prior to Allen’s injury, the Cleveland team had won largely because of their defense, which was fourth in the NBA at the time. However, in the 18 games since the downfall of the huge man, Cleveland have been 22nd in defense in the league, scoring 7-11. That’s all that means in order to beat Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and The Nets on Tuesday, they have to score…a lot.

The good news is that the Nets are a great team to try to score against, and they are number 20 in the league for the regular season with a defensive rating of 112.3. For all the credit that Durant deserves offensively, he’s also crucial to the Brooklyn defense, whose rating is four points worse when Durant is seated. If Nash chooses to give his star player even the slightest bit of rest, it is imperative that the Cavs benefit.

This would start with Garland, an All-Star this season who averaged 21.7 points and 8.6 assists in 46/38/89 shooting splits. The Cavs’ offensive rating improves by more than 10 points per 100 possessions when Garland is on the ground, so he needs to be at his best in order to keep up with the Nets’ attack.

When Garland went to the bench, things fell off a cliff. He likely won’t sit out much on Tuesday, but when he does, it will be up to mid-season acquisition Caris LeVert to carry the offensive torch. So far this season hasn’t happened, with the Cavs amassing just a paltry 103.4 points per 100 ownership in 173 minutes with LeVert on the field and Garland on the bench. The Cleveland team has to be very careful not to lose control of the game when Garland gets to rest.

With Garland and Levert on the field together, the Cavs were offensively dynamic, putting in 118.4 points per 100 ownership. That might be enough to keep up with the net, but both Garland and Levert should be on their game.

3. Evan Mobley, X Factor

It’s hard to predict the junior’s post-season performance, but everything we’ve seen from Mobley, one of the year’s best starters, suggests he won’t be shrinking for the time being. Assuming Durant, Irving, Garland and Leverett all make an A game, Mobley could be the swing factor in Tuesday’s game.

With Allen out, Mobley will be tasked with protecting the outer frame against KD and Kyrie, both skilled finishers, while keeping the likes of Andre Drummond and Nicolas Claxton away from the offensive glass. This isn’t a simple task, and the Cavs will likely also need him to score in order to keep up with Brooklyn’s offensive. The Cavs were 4-1 this season when Mobley scored 24 or more points, and they might just need that kind of effort from him if they’re going to win on Tuesday.


There must be a lot of point in this with Allen not being able to do what works for you, so get your popcorn ready. The Cavs have been too weak defensively in recent weeks to slow Durant-Irving’s attacking barrage, so the Nets will eventually pull out for the win. However, it should be close to the spread, so Cavs should cover the relatively large spread. Picks: Nets ML, Cavs +8.5