20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Nets Clinch Seventh Seed After Outlasting Cavaliers, 115-108

The Brooklyn Nets kicked off the 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament by defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 to clinch the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Nets will face the Boston Celtics in a best of seven first round series, while the Cavaliers can still earn the eighth seed on Friday night by defeating the winner of tomorrow night's Atlanta-Charlotte game (the loser of that game will be eliminated from playoff contention). 

The Play-In Tournament exists in an alternate universe in which the statistics do not count and the games often are not competitive or memorable. At first, this game looked like it would follow that template, as Brooklyn led 40-20 after the first quarter while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant amassed gaudy numbers that, technically, do not exist. The Cavaliers are an injury-riddled team, but they are also gritty and well-coached; after falling behind 72-50 in the third quarter, they chiseled away until they cut the margin to six points (99-93) after an Evan Mobley dunk with 5:05 remaining in the fourth quarter. Durant answered with back to back jump shots, and even though the Cavaliers battled until the final buzzer they never again got closer than six points. 

The Nets led 57-43 at halftime after shooting .590 from the field, compared to .354 first half field goal shooting by Cleveland. The Cavaliers shot and played much better in the second half, but that kind of slow start is difficult to overcome; contrary to popular belief, the NBA is much more of a first quarter league than a fourth quarter league, as I explained during last year's Play-In Tournament: "The tone is often set in the first quarter, and that is also when the matchup advantages that will decide the game are often identified and probed."

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 34 points on 12-15 field goal shooting, and he also had a game-high 12 assists. Irving scored 20 first half points on 9-9 field goal shooting, and he made his first 12 field goal attempts before missing his final three field goal attempts. Durant finished with 25 points on 9-16 field goal shooting, and he contributed 11 assists. Bruce Brown had a major impact with 18 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Darius Garland led the Cavaliers with 34 points on 13-24 field goal shooting, tying Irving for game-high scoring honors. Mobley added 19 points on 9-13 field goal shooting.

This game is likely a microcosm of what Brooklyn's playoff run will look like: the Nets have two sensational stars who can dominate with their precise shooting and deft passing, but the Nets lack depth, interior defensive presence, and a commitment to transition defense.

During last Sunday's Nets-Pacers telecast, Jeff Van Gundy lamented the poor transition defense of both teams, and he noted that people who say that NBA defenses should take away the three pointer first do not understand NBA analytics; he asserted that a defense's first priority should be to take away paint points, the second priority should be to give up as few free throws as possible, and then the third priority should be to guard the three point line. Van Gundy also quoted Hubie Brown, who often said (to players he coached, and during telecasts as a commentator), "If you are not on the board and you are not getting back on defense, where are you?"

The Nets dominated the Cavaliers at first, but then let the Cavaliers back into the game because the Nets lack the necessary defensive structure and continuity to maintain control throughout the game. Can Ben Simmons minimize those problems/weaknesses? Simmons has not played NBA basketball for almost a year, and it is not certain when he will be mentally and/or physically ready to play. If he is ready to play during the playoffs, it is not clear how many minutes he can handle, or how effective he can be during those minutes. His size, defense, and playmaking could make a difference if he can play 30-35 mpg while producing a line like 16-8-8 (his career regular season averages), but at this point it seems doubtful that we will see that Simmons during the 2022 playoffs.

The Nets are very dangerous against any team in a one game scenario, but they do not look like a team that will win a seven game series against an elite team.

Labels: , , , , , ,

posted by David Friedman @ 11:38 PM



At Wednesday, April 13, 2022 8:56:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


I think nets will win it all if kyrie and kd stay healthy

I think they role players are better this year than last

They played around with Cleveland late


Not beating them

Milwaukee isn't as good this year

Hear or bulls

Hek no

Only thing stopping nets is health like last year

At Wednesday, April 13, 2022 9:55:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The Nets are dangerous because of the greatness of Durant and Irving--especially Durant--but the Nets lack strength/size inside, their transition defense is awful, and they don't have enough consistent scorers to complement Durant and Irving. The Nets are a threat in any one game, but I can't see them beating the Celtics in a series, let alone beating multiple superior teams without having home court advantage in any series.

At Wednesday, April 13, 2022 10:19:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


The Celtics arent that good



And Miami

Was ducking the nets

Tatum is nice but he not better than kd

And kyrie a elite playoff performer

Brown and the rest of the celts ok

There not the superior team

But I guess we'll see

Celts arent it to me

U like the nets

At Wednesday, April 13, 2022 11:40:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


As I often say, asserting something is not the same as proving it.

The Celtics have played at an elite level during the second half of the season. Even without Williams, they are better defensively than the Nets. You are right that Tatum is not as good as Durant, but this is not one on one: this is five on five (plus the respective benches), and Tatum has much more help around him than Durant does. Likewise, I agree that Irving has been an excellent playoff performer, but this is about which team is better overall.

The Bucks ducked the Nets, but that does not mean that the Bucks will not beat the Nets (if the Nets make it past the first round, which I don't expect them to do). The Heat took the number one seed, so I don't understand what makes you think that they "ducked" anybody.

The Celtics have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals three times in the past five years. Granted, there has been a lot of roster turnover during that time, but the point is that this organization has proven recently that it can make deep playoff runs.

I believe that you are both overrating the Nets and underrating the Celtics. The Nets are a dangerous team, but it is more than a bit much to pick them to win the championship from the seventh seed.


Post a Comment

<< Home