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Game Preview: Miller to Start as Cavs Look to Reestablish Home Court Dominance

UPI/Rich Kane

The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off of their worst home loss of the season to the Atlanta Hawks by a score of 127-98. It was an outright embarrassing loss where the Hawks had 7 players in double figures and shot over 60% from the field. Tonight, the Cavaliers look to once again regaining their winning mentality, improve their record, and continue to develop against Deron Williams and his Nets as Brooklyn makes their first visit to Quicken Loans Arena this season with a 10-14 record. The game starts tonight at 7:30pm EST. Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Cleveland Cavaliers

PG – Kyrie Irving
SG – Mike Miller
SF – LeBron James
PF – Kevin Love
C – Anderson Varejao

Injuries: Mike Miller (returns tonight after missing previous 6 games with concussion symptoms)

Brooklyn Nets

PG – Deron Williams
SG – Sergey Karasev*/ Alan Anderson
SF – Joe Johnson
PF – Kevin Garnett
C – Mason Plumlee

Injuries: Sergey Karasev (Day to Day; questionable with oblique injury), Brook Lopez (Out; lower back strain)

{adinserter 2}In their previous game against the Hawks, Cleveland allowed Atlanta to shoot an insane 64.5% from the field, including a whopping 16-28 from the 3-point line alone. Allowing opponents to shoot with those numbers alone will more often than not result in a loss. The Atlanta bench also scored 66 points compared to the Cavaliers’ 45 bench points. Turnovers weren’t the problem here, as the Cavaliers simply couldn’t defend any of the shooters, allowing 7 to make at least one 3-pointer. The Cavs shot just 45.1% in that game, including 8-30 from the 3-point line. Here are the nightlights from the game:

After the game, LeBron James said there’s just a lack of trust and communication among teammates, and this isn’t something new.

The Brooklyn Nets are coming off of a loss in Toronto against the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors. In what was a rematch of the surprising and thrilling 7-game series in last season’s playoffs, the Nets and Raptors kept it close throughout until Toronto outscored the Nets by 13 in the 4th to win 105-89.
Having already won the first game in this 4-game season series, the Cavaliers look to go 2-0 against Brooklyn. In their last meeting, Cleveland imposed their shooting as well as rebounding strengths as they scored 110 points and outrebounded the Nets 55-33, winning by 22 points.

Here are the key matchups in tonight’s game:

Point Guard – Kyrie Irving vs. Deron Williams

In what has become the norm the past couple of seasons, the point guard matchup will likely be the most intriguing one tonight. All-Star Kyrie Irving takes on former All-Star Deron Williams. Irving had been shooting very well this season, around 50% actually, until this recent 7-game slump where he’s shooting just 37.6% from the field (38/101 field goals). The slump began just before the previous game against Brooklyn, where he shot 2-10 and finished with just 7 points. He brings in averages of 20 points and 5 assists while Williams is averaging 16 points and 7 assists this season on just 40% shooting. This will be a game of scoring point guards, as both like to score a little more than they distribute, so forcing Williams to dish the ball to other players will force them to become playmakers.

Shooting Guard – Mike Miller vs. Joe Johnson

In what will be his first start of the season, Mike Miller will take over the starting shooting guard position for the Cavaliers. The move to start Miller, who’s returning from a 6-game absence because of concussion-like symptoms, takes Shawn Marion to the bench and matches Miller up with Joe Johnson. Johnson is a very streaky shooter as he’s been his whole career. Johnson doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective, as he’s just as good catching and shooting. He’s doing it all for the Nets this season, and he’ll be their go-to guy in this game. Just like with Williams, forcing the other lesser-known Nets players to make plays will be the key to making him less effective. Easier said than done.

Small Forward – LeBron James vs. Sergey Karasev/ Alan Anderson

LeBron has a very favorable matchup tonight as the Nets don’t really have anyone that can stop him 1-on-1. This should be another 25-30 point effort for James unless he decides to go-full distributor mode or this game gets out of hand early. From the Nets side, Alderson and Karasev, who is questionable with an oblique injury, are really only standstill shooters or one-dribble, pull up jumpshooters as they really aren’t playmakers for this Nets team. Anderson can even get to the basket at times and will be relied upon to do so, but the Cavalier defense should cut off any open lanes and force him to the outside.

Power Forward – Kevin Love vs. Kevin Garnett

The Battle of the Kevins is on tonight as the stretch 4’s go up against one another. Kevin Garnett is fresh of a 2-day rest because he didn’t play in the 2nd of the Nets’ back to back in Toronto Wednesday night. He’s in the latter part of his career so he won’t be much of a threat in tonight’s game unless he is left wide-open on the perimeter or on the pick-and-rolls, both spots where the Cavaliers have struggled mightily this season. Should Love have his 3-point game going tonight, Garnett won’t play many minutes at the power forward spot as the Nets will likely want a younger, faster player on Love.

Center – Anderson Varejao vs. Mason Plumlee

With Brook Lopez out, Plumlee has stepped in and taken the role of starting center. He’s done a very good job of it thus far, averaging 18.4 points and 10 rebounds in his last 4 games as a starter. He’s more of an inside/ hustle player than Brook Lopez, who’s a post up jumpshooter. Varejao and Plumlee will both have their work cut out for them tonight, as the center position will be a hustle battle. Varejao is the most seasoned NBA player, but Plumlee is coming off of FIBA Championship experience. Plumlee won’t do most of this damage 1-on-1, but he will do it in the pick-and-roll, where he’s an underrated finisher at the rim. If the Cavs do a good job cuttong off the pick-and-roll, Plumlee should have a quiet night. If not, he could be in for a 20 point-10 rebound night.

The Land