Brooklyn Nets no match for motivated LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
As soon as Cleveland was humiliated by Golden State on Monday, the Nets knew LeBron James and the Cavaliers would show up in Brooklyn “breathing fire,” looking to dominate. And that’s exactly what happened.
Being prepared for it doesn’t mean being able to do a damn thing about it. The Nets got beaten 91-78 Wednesday at the Barclays Center by a focused, fired-up Cavaliers squad. And even though the margin didn’t show it, this game was never competitive.
“They’ll probably be breathing fire. You’d expect that,” said interim coach Tony Brown, who has lost five of six since taking over for fired Lionel Hollins. The latest was a near wire-to-wire defeat against a proud Cavs team, determined to get a statement win after Monday’s 132-98 loss.
“Oh yeah, I predicted [they’d be mad],’’ Donald Sloan said before the game. “They’re going to be very focused, do everything with that drive of ‘Let’s get it back together, let’s get it back going.’ We can’t let them come here and be comfortable. We can’t let them come in here and push us around. We can’t let them come here and dominate. We’ve got to fight, come out and have them on their heels.’’
Oh, but the Nets (11-32) did get pushed around and did get dominated. They had no answer against Cleveland’s swarming defense and were held to 41.7 percent shooting. And the Cavaliers spread the ball. James finishing with 17 points and five assists while maligned Kevin Love broke out of his malaise to manhandle Thaddeus Young.
Love came in shooting just 34.8 percent this month, with questions about his role in the offense. But Wednesday his role was wearing out Young. Love had 17 points and a game-high 18 rebounds, while Young had 14 and just five boards. Brook Lopez finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“[The loss] made us pay attention to very important things. We were 28-10 going into that game. We were going OK,” Cavs coach Dave Blatt. “We had a bad game, addressed, made points where we had to and move on to the next game.
“You hope to come out with fire in every game. Our guys are professional. Certainly they felt the disappointment and the hard loss. I know they’ll come back out here and play.’’
They did. Sloan (12 points, nine assists) briefly gave the Nets a 15-13 lead by stealing a James pass and going in for a layup with 5:25 left in the first quarter, but it was the last lead Brooklyn had all night.
The Cavaliers reeled off 10 unanswered points, a layup by former Knick Timofey Mozgov and a long jumper by Matthew Dellavedova sandwiched around three straight James drives to the basket. The run put the Nets in a 23-15 hole with 1:21 left in the quarter, and it swelled to 51-38 by the break and 73-55 after three.
The lead eventually hit 23 on an alley-oop from Tristan Thompson (14 points, 10 boards) with seven minutes left, and the Nets never mounted any resistance.