Nets vs Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James drives against Brooklyn Nets' DeMarre Carroll during Wednesday's game in Cleveland. PHOTO/ Associated Press

Brooklyn Nets at Cleveland Cavaliers Notes and Observations: 11-22-17

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Two consecutive victories against LeBron James proved to be out of reach as the Brooklyn Nets suffered a 119-109 road loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Nets failed to follow up on the October 25th 112-107 victory over Cleveland in Barclays after the formerly mentioned LeBron Raymone James scored 18 straight points to end the fourth quarter. The third contest of the season series between Nets-Cavs will not approach until February 27th in the Quicken Loans Arena, so the Brooklyn rotation should hopefully have rested its bruised bones from LeBron’s dominant pounding by then. For now, the Nets will be having a less than ideal Thanksgiving before a noon start on Friday, November 24th at home against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Piercing the Defense with Cotton Balls

It turns out having both D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin injured really declines the dribble penetration ability of the Brooklyn Nets offense. Who knew? The dire state of Brooklyn’s capability to slash in the half-court could be concisely and succinctly summarized in the zero free throw attempts the Nets accrued in the entire first half. While the Cavaliers tend to do well to avoid fouling (often simply by avoiding extra effort), the perimeter sieves and lack of rim protection in the Cleveland defense should not be denying many opportunities in the paint. Spencer Dinwiddie has been a revelation this season as a lead ball-handler, but while he has shown more explosiveness than he ever had before, he does not quite have the level of dribbling finesse to get the rim at will on on-balance defenders. Dinwiddie’s remarkable poise and patience when running the offense remains admirable, but sometimes he waits for a good scoring look the offense cannot ultimately create. Still all love, though, Spencer <3.

Joe Harris Is An Asset

Former Cavalier (both Cleveland and University of Virginia) Joe Harris should quickly rise up the league boards as one of the best off-ball movers in the game of basketball. He has settled well into the, ahem, stereotype of the high-energy, smart, white shooter who can really thrive under Kenny Atkinson’s requirements. Harris remains limited outside of his constant effort to find open looks, but that one skill remains extremely valuable, especially for a team that lacks dynamic playmakers. And, hey, maybe Harris can make plays like his baseline drive on Kevin Love for a basket in the third quarter more of a trademark.

The Aggressive RHJ

After previously lamenting over the Nets’ ability to dribble productively into the teeth of the last-ranked Cleveland defense, it would be amiss to not balance that criticism out with some praise for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for continuing to try to rectify that himself. RHJ finished the game with his third 20-point game of the brief 2017-18 NBA season as a follow-up to his new aggressive approach to scoring. He helped rectify the free throw drought of the first half of the game by earning five free throws himself in the second half.

Now, his free throw rate stands at a robust .540, which leads all NBA wings who have played in at least 10 games. RHJ does not do the traditional top-of-the-key dribble-drive of classic NBA wings to earn his free throws, but rather has learned to attack quickly and decisively in the mid-post to finally use his quickness advantage on opposing bigs. He supplements that new approach with his standard high-energy cutting off-ball or grabbing loose balls. These skills gather enough garbage points to become consistently dangerous on the offensive end despite still being a 6-foot-7, 215-pound non-three-point shooter. And even without shooting threes, RHJ has been growing confidence in shooting jumpers out of the post and has been making them thus far (46.4 percent from 10 to 16 feet, via Basketball-Reference). Hollis-Jefferson’s leap seems like it might be legit!