Brooklyn Nets beat Cleveland Cavaliers without Russell

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 25: Sean Kilpatrick
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 25: Sean Kilpatrick /

The Brooklyn Nets shocked Cleveland Cavaliers 112-107 despite no D’Angelo Russell and LeBron James getting his first triple-double of the season. This victory shouldn’t come as that significant of a shock to the majority of Nets’ fans.

The Cavaliers have continuously showed incompetence against young, gritty teams. Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson had a clear game plan. It was to neutralize the only player who seemingly could hurt the Nets. The Nets had the roster to pull off this game plan and grind out a victory. Together we can explore the three keys to this home victory against the defending Eastern Conference champs.

Let’s start with DeMarre Carroll. The fact that he had to return to his play from his Atlanta Hawk days, has come to fruition. Carroll, in a matchup against the greatest player in the world, LeBron James, was still able to get it done on both ends of the court.

He finished the night with 18 points, 7 rebounds, and four steals. And while the stat line is impressive enough, the box score itself doesn’t do his impact justice.

Three key plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter helped seal the Nets victory. Play one: down 100-103 with over two minutes left in the fourth, Carroll received a pass in the corner. Heavily contested by Kevin Love, he rose above Love and nailed a three-point shot. The shot quickly answered Kyle Korver’s made three on the opposite end.

Play two: with 7 seconds left to go in the game – and James handling the ball, down by two – James drove at Carroll to tie the game. But Carroll rejected him at the rim. Foul on Carroll. James choked at the line and missed his two consequent free-throws. A play that doesn’t come up on the stat sheet, very likely saved the game.

When most players would concede at the sound of the whistle, Carroll stuck with the play and laid a monstrous block, thus preventing an and-one opportunity, thus saving the game.

And finally, the most decisive play of the game, on LeBron’s missed free-throw, Carroll sprang into the play, and wrestled the ball away from Kevin Love to secure the victory.

All plays leading to a Nets victory and all plays speaking to Carroll’s gritty and hard-nosed nature. For the Nets to continue winning games against contenders such as the Cavaliers, they are going to need this form of Carroll.

Defense wins championships and beats the Cavaliers. The inconvenient truth is that the Cavaliers have showed that they are an old, run-down team that rarely tries in the regular season. On top of that, with Kyrie Irving shipped off and Isaiah out with injury, LeBron poses the only true threat on offense.

While the Cavaliers are blessed with talented shooters, none can create on their own. Although LeBron ended the game with a triple-double, it is obvious that the Nets were able to impede his efforts.

Atkinson brilliantly used an array of players to stick to James. They collapsed on him every time he drove to the paint.

Of course, due to LeBron’s sheer size and athletic gift, he still had his way on many plays. But later on in the fourth, when James would drive and face double to triple teams in the paint, he was forced to feed his teammates on the perimeter.

Atkinson very clearly wanted to force someone else on the Cavaliers to beat them tonight. Unfortunately for Cleveland, no one stepped up to that role.

It would be doing a disservice to not give Spencer Dinwiddie the requisite recognition that he so clearly deserves. With D’Angelo out tonight and Jeremy Lin’s unfortunate season-ending injury, the Nets needed someone to step up.

Dinwiddie did more than that. The 6’6″ point guard showed composure and a little bit of the ice in his veins.

He checked back in during the middle of the fourth, when the Cavaliers had trimmed down their deficit. It was clear that the team was panicking and out of sorts without a ball-handler like Russell or Lin out there on the court.

Next: Nets fall to the Magic 125-121

Dinwiddie came in and exceeded expectation, nailing clutch three after clutch three and slowing down the tempo of the game. His deep-three might be the main highlight of tonight’s victory. The way he was able to calm the rest of his team and confidently step into his role shows the composure and poise that the Nets are going to need from him for the rest of the season.