After finally snapping their eight-game losing skid against the Chicago Bulls, the Brooklyn Nets (20-42) went back to losing ways with a 129-123 defeat against the Cleveland Cavaliers. D’Angelo Russell had an impressive game with 25 points, five rebounds, and six assists, while Caris LeVert had 18 points in 19 minutes off the bench. However, they clearly had no answer for LeBron James, who had a triple-double, nor the Cavs bench, which went off for 56 points.
Luckily, the Nets have a huge opportunity to pick up a win as they face the Sacramento Kings (18-43). The Kings suffered their fifth loss in a row with a 116-99 defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers, which is their second loss of at least 17 points in a row. Zach Randolph impressed upon his return from a brief rest as he had 20 points and six rebounds in 28 minutes. Meanwhile, Willie Cauley-Stein continued his impressive play of late with 17 points, ten rebounds, and two steals.
Three keys to the game
Frontcourt battle - On paper, the Kings have the significant size advantage over the Nets, particularly in the frontcourt. Z-Bo and Cauley-Stein combined for 34 points and 17 rebounds in their first meeting this season which saw the Kings get a 104-99 win in Brooklyn. The Kings have continued to have their problems defending opposing big men, so the Kings should look to capitalize on this important edge.
Lefty guard matchup - Russell and Fox are both lefties and they both play an important part in their respective offense. Russell has regained his scoring touch over the last few weeks and will be eager to keep that impressive run going against the Kings. As for Fox, the Kings will hope he can snap out of his recent shooting funk and play more of a factor in terms of his scoring.
Bench play - The Kings didn’t get the bench play that they needed against the Blazers. Buddy Hield, in particular, fell back down to earth with just six points on 2-of-11 shooting after going on a hot start post-All-Star break. On the other side, the Nets bench just got deeper with the return of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to play alongside LeVert and Joe Harris in the second unit. The Kings will need to make sure they don’t get completely outgunned in the battle of the second units.
Matchup to watch
Jarrett Allen vs Willie Cauley-Stein - Allen has continued to make some strides in his game as he gets more consistent playing time. It’ll be an interesting matchup to see how he fares when faces a more advanced version of himself in Cauley-Stein. His energy and hustle on the defensive end will be especially crucial in helping the Nets avoid a major disadvantage in the paint.
Nets projected starting lineup
PG – Spencer Dinwiddie | SG – D’Angelo Russell | SF – Allen Crabbe | PF – DeMarre Carroll | C – Jarrett Allen
Kings projected starting lineup
PG – De’Aaron Fox | SG – Bogdan Bogdanovic | SF – Justin Jackson | PF – Zach Randolph | C – Willie Cauley-Stein
Russell really does look like he’s finally back to his best. Over his last six games, the third-year guard is averaging 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. Russell was unavailable in the Nets’ first meeting against Sacramento, but he will be out to make up for lost time against a Kings defense which has given up some big games to opposing guards since the break.
On the other side, the Kings’ frontcourt of Randolph and Cauley-Stein looks like a solid bet fantasy-wise. Z-Bo had a strong night with 21 points and eight boards at Brooklyn earlier in the season. Meanwhile, Cauley-Stein is averaging an impressive line of 17.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 block over his last three games.
The Nets have been pretty feisty on the road this season. They may be just 8-21, but they are 18-11 ATS. Even with their defensive deficiencies, they at least have a more reliable offense than the Kings, who remain inconsistent on that end of the floor. The Nets should be able to cover as one-point road favorites.
The Nets inflict more suffering on the Kings as they get the 108-104 road win.
This game will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and YES Network. Tip-off is at 10:00 pm Eastern.