|Cavaliers look to avenge early-season loss to Nets|
CLEVELAND -- Each time the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets play each other this season, as they do Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena, another element is in play.
The Cavs own the rights to Brooklyn's first-round draft pick in 2018, which Cleveland acquired from Boston as part of the Kyrie Irving trade.
The pick is highly valued because, the thinking goes, the Nets will be a lottery team. The Cavs could wind up with a top-five pick in a talent-rich draft.
That is why when the Nets beat Cleveland 112-107 on Oct. 25, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue quipped: "We're running around here worrying about getting the Brooklyn pick; they might want our pick."
Brooklyn drained 17 shots from beyond the arc that night and stunned the Cavs, who led by a point with 1:03 left. It was the first loss in an early-season tailspin for Cleveland, the three-time defending East champs who ended up losing four straight.
The Cavs (10-7) enter their rematch against the Nets on Wednesday riding a five-game winning streak and sitting one game out of third place in the East. The Nets (6-10) are in the 13th slot in the East and seem headed for the lottery, which means Cleveland is headed for the lottery.
But the Nets should not be taken lightly. The Golden State Warriors nearly lost in Brooklyn on Sunday night.
"We've struggled over the last few years in Brooklyn," said injured Nets point guard D'Angelo Russell, according to NetsDaily.com. "Teams are used to coming in and taking nights off."
Russell is out indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery last week, but his team remains capable of upsets.
The Cavs are still the NBA's worst-rated defensive team, but during the five-game winning streak, they are allowing 100.8 points per 100 possessions -- eighth best in the league. The 88 points they yielded in a blowout win over the Detroit Pistons on Monday were the fewest by any Cleveland opponent this season.
The Cavs have yet to play with two-time All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, and they have two other point guards out, Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert. Yet they are third in the NBA in scoring -- just ahead of the Nets (110.9 points for Cleveland to 110.6 for Brooklyn).
"I knew we was gonna be OK," said LeBron James, who is third in the NBA in scoring (28.3 points per game) and fourth in assists (8.5). "Very patient. Obviously, it's frustrating when you're losing, but at the end of the day, there's always a brighter side of things. We're just in a good groove right now. We've still got a few bodies out."
Both teams have huge injuries at point guard. Not only is Russell out for the Nets, but Jeremy Lin is lost for the season after knee surgery.
Center Trevor Booker is listed as questionable after sustaining a left ankle sprain in the Sunday loss to the Warriors.
Spencer Dinwiddie is running the point for Brooklyn, averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 assists with Russell sidelined.
For the short term, the Cavs have turned to 36-year-old point guard Jose Calderon, who made his second start this season Monday and outplayed the Pistons' Reggie Jackson, scoring 14 points.
"I don't know if it's going to be three more games (until) Shump is back and we're back to the same rotation," Calderon said. "I don't know what's going to happen. Like I say, I know my role on this team, I know what I have to do. I've been working to be ready just in case they need me, and like I say, if it's Wednesday, one more game, perfect. If not, I'll be on the bench ready to play whenever Ty calls my name."