The Nets will be looking for their second win in as many tries against the Cavaliers when the teams meet Wednesday night in Cleveland. However no one is expecting things to unfold just as they did in Brooklyn’s 112-107 home win last month. Then the Cavs and star LeBron James were in the midst of dropping five of six and the Nets were off to a strong start.
Now Cleveland is on a five-game win streak while Brooklyn has dropped eight of 11.
“They are a different team right now. They are starting to really get it together,” Nets coach Keny Atkinson said of the Cavs. “We looked at the tape and there are a lot of good things we did against them that worked against them, but again, they’ve progressed.”
Brooklyn also may be without center Trevor Booker, who is averaging 10.2 points and 6.5 assists in 21.8 minutes. Booker played only nine minutes of Sunday’s loss to the Warriors, coming out after suffering a left ankle injury. He did not participate in practice on Tuesday and Atkinson said “it’s just a little more [of a] day-to-day process with him.”
The Nets are prepared to give added minutes to 6-11 rookie Jarrett Allen and 7-foot Tyler Zeller and possibly play more minutes with a smaller lineup that has Quincy Acy or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at the center position.
Allen played a dozen impressive minutes against Golden State, his third game back after missing six with a foot sprain.
“He gave us a boost,” Atkinson said. “His ability to roll to the rim — especially against switching teams — it gives us a nice dimension,” Atkinson said. “And he fits the way we want to play. He fits our style. “
“He gives us an elite rim protector,” Acy said of the 19-year-old Allen. “He plays hard and he’s figured it out . . . He’s going to be really good for us.”
But Allen isn’t ready to take on a huge chunk of minutes yet, Atkinson said. He is still building endurance after the time away and the coach’s best estimate is that he could play a maximum of 20 minutes.
The 6-7 Acy was good at mixing it up down low last season but has been asked to become more of a ‘stretch big’ this season and shoot more outside shots. The adjustment is taking time and perhaps making him less effective when playing power forward or center.
“When he first came to us last year, what we loved about him was doing all the dirty stuff. He was getting all the loose balls, getting the rebounds and [being] kind of our tough guy,” Atkinson said. “We want him to get back to that and still make shots . . . I’d really love for him to get to that gritty Quincy we know, that toughness, the deflections [and] activity on defense.”
Acy agrees. “I think I kind of over complicate it myself: Just finding that balance as far as mixing it up and wanting to go inside and do the dirty work and be around the rim and stretching the floor,” he said. “I know I’ve worked on it, and it helps the offense.”