After closing out the regular season with four straight wins, including one against Cleveland, the Nets are the favorites to get their revenge in Tuesday’s play-in game.
But what exactly will the Nets have to do to defeat the Cavaliers and earn their spot in a first-round playoff date against the second-seeded Celtics?
The Post’s Brian Lewis breaks down the matchups that will decide what kind of game this will be:
Nets 3-point shots vs. Cavs 3 point defense
Since Kevin Durant returned from his MCL injury, Brooklyn has been third in 3-point shooting (.399). But in terms of volume, the Cavs allow the sixth-fewest 3-pointers in the league, while Brooklyn makes the seventh-fewest. Edge: Even
Cavs 3-point shots vs. Nets 3-point defense
The Nets’ perimeter defense has been lackluster, but has limited foes to .345 shooting. Even with Darius Garland, Cleveland ranks in the bottom third in shooting and attempts. Brooklyn held the Cavs to 8-for-27 in the last meeting. Edge: Nets
Despite being great, the Cavs are not a great rebounding team. The Nets have gone from terrible to mediocre thanks to Andre Drummond. Adding him and removing Jarrett Allen from Cleveland will be key. Edge: Nets
Taking fouls and taking free throws
Even without James Harden, the Nets are among the best in the NBA at winning and making free throws, but they make dumb fouls. The Cavs aren’t experts at taking fouls, but they’ve allowed the second-fewest attempts (19.4). Edge: Even
The Nets’ ability to get paint points against the Cavs’ interior defense
Brooklyn still has an unplayable driver in Kyrie Irving. Meanwhile, the Cavs’ rim protection took a big hit with the loss of Allen (finger). Edge: Nets
The Cavs’ ability to get paint points against the Nets’ interior defense
There isn’t one area of the Nets’ defense that stands out. Allen was in the top 10 in paint points, and losing both him and Collin Sexton leaves the burden on Garland and Evan Mobley. But the Cavs still scored 60 paint points in the last meeting. Border: Cavs.
Irving and Kevin Durant are the only Nets to thrive on the open court, but that has been enough to make them a top-10 fast-break team. The problem is that they don’t come back to the other side. His saving grace is that the Cavs are in the midst of transition. Edge: Even
Steve Nash’s rotations will likely be cut to nine, with Nic Claxton, Patty Mills, Kessler Edwards and Goran Dragic filling in as backups. Cedi Osman, Kevin Love and Lamar Stevens will face a Nets bench that is as healthy as it has been all season. Edge: Even
Nash has not only kept the team together, but has also improved his endgame management and calling plays out of timeouts. But JB Bickerstaff has been stellar in taking a team that was third-worst in the East and having sixth-best on March 25. Rim: Cavas
Brooklyn has gone through a team-record 42 different starting lineups. But the Nets still managed to crush the Cavs 35-19 in the fourth quarter of their last meeting. Cleveland has lost eight of its last 11 and 17 of 26 since Feb. 12. Edge: Nets