Reporting Matt Loede
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – If the Cavs would have played the first 41 minutes like the last seven of Friday night’s game against the New Jersey Nets, it would have been a rather impressive effort.
Instead, the Cavs were on the short end of the stick, falling 99-96 in a game where the close score didn’t indicate just how much the Nets dominated most of the night.
New Jersey, led by stud point guard Daren Williams, took the Cavs and rookie point guard Kyrie Irving to school, scoring 27 points in 39 minutes, putting up 10 assists and two rebounds.
As for Irving, he was simply amazing in the final three minutes, scoring 18 points, including 17 of his career-high 32 points in the final 2:58. It was not enough through, as the Cavs fell for the 5th time in their last 6 games.
“With the way the game went, we really didn’t show energy till about 6-7 minutes left in the game,” coach Byron Scott said. “We can’t play that way, that’s way too late. If we don’t come out and play more aggressively from the start to the finish, we’re gonna keep having these up and down type games.”
The Cavs offensive tempo was off all night, and things didn’t go all that well on defense either. The Nets scored 30 points in the first quarter, and were off and running. They never trailed, and built a lead all the way to 17 in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t think we came out with the right frame of mind, for whatever reason,” Scott said. “I don’t know if guys think we’ve arrived or what, but whatever the case may be we better understand it every night. We better come out ready to play, because every team in this league can beat us if we don’t.”
While Williams took the game over at points for the Nets, he had a solid supporting cast, led by Anthony Marrow with 22 points, and Kris Humphries, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds. The Nets were not sure that Humphries would be able to play due to him being sick.
“We didn’t know if Kris would be available, but he came out and battled through it,” Williams said. “He’s a warrior. It’s definitely a good win without those guys and Kris being sick.”
For the Cavs, they fall to 7-11 on the season, and will have to work hard at practice on Saturday and then board a plane to head to Boston to play the Celtics on Sunday night.
They will have to find a way to get the bad taste of Friday night out of their mouths.
“I don’t know if we could play with the same assertiveness that we did the last 7 minutes that we did the whole game, but it would have been a totally different turnout for us,” Irving said. “We gave this game away.”
The Nets started hot right from the opening tip, as Williams set the tempo, putting up three assists and scoring on a jumper as the Nets led early 9-3. They led 12-5 before the Cavs went on a mini-run to cut it to 19-16 with 4:54 to play in the first. The Nets though kept hitting as they led 28-18 when Williams buried a three with 1:43 left in the quarter.
The first ended with the Cavs trailing 30-20. Williams played all 12 minutes, putting up 10 points, five assists and two rebounds.
The Cavs were led in the first by Antwan Jamison, who had 7 points. Anthony Parker added five for the Cavs, who were outshot 60 percent to 47 percent in the first 12 minutes.
Quarter two saw a lot of the same from the Nets, who went up 34-24 at the 7:34 mark of the quarter when Anthony Marrow hit a jumper.
The Cavs finally made a run, cutting the double digit lead to three at the 5:05 mark when Kyrie Irving hit a free throw to make it 34-31.
New Jersey though went on a run to end the half. They went up 15 as Johan Petro dunked home a field goal with 35.9 left to make it 47-33.
Cleveland was able to cut it to 10 at the half, as with 0.04 Irving hit a pair of free throws to make it 47-37 at the break.
Williams led the Net with 13, and Morrow had 11. The Cavs were led by Jamison with 13, and Irving had 7.
Things still didn’t seem to go right for the Cavs in the third quarter, as New Jersey’s hot shooting continued, as Williams and DeShawn Stevenson each hit a 3 at the start of the quarter to go up 53-39.
A few times the Cavs would cut it to 10, but then the Nets would hit a big outside shot to extend the lead. The Cavs got it to 53-43, 55-45, and 68-58, but the Nets hot shooting kept the Cavs in check.
The third quarter wrapped up with the Nets leading it 72-61, with Williams leading all scores with 19 points. The Cavs were led by Jamison with 18.
The fourth quarter was almost a tale of two games, as the Nets led by as many as 17, but the Cavs went on a run over the final 7 minutes, with Irving playing the best 7 minutes of his NBA career to date, at one point scoring 18 points in the final three minutes.
The run was impressive, but wasn’t enough to overcome the Nets large lead. Irving hit a three at the buzzer to close out the scoring at 99-96.
The Cavaliers will be on the road Sunday when they head to Beantown to take on the Celtics. They will then head home for a home game with the same Celtics on Tuesday night at 7pm.