February 22, 2019

Caris LeVert’s return to the Brooklyn Nets lineup spoiled with 125-106 loss to the 12-42 Chicago Bulls

On the heels of a 135-130 win on Wednesday night over the Denver Nuggets, the team that happens to be the No.2 seed in the NBA’s Western Conference, the Brooklyn Nets managed to get shut down at home last night by the 12-42 Chicago Bulls, 125-106.

Brooklyn allowed Chicago to shoot .541 from the field, .500 (14-of-28) from three-point land and was out-rebounded 50-33. The only metric that the Nets overpowered the Bulls on last night was bench points, 43-24.

So, what was the big difference between last night and 10 days ago when the Nets played the Bulls?

The Bulls traded Jabari Parker to the Washington Wizards for Otto Porter Jr. and in so doing, its starters have greater size over the Brooklyn Nets starting five. Both Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez are seven feet tall, the only Nets player close to seven feet tall is Jarrett Allen, who is in his second year in the NBA. Also, according to the NBA, Parker’s average points per game this season is seven and Porter’s PPG this season is 18. Averages for Chicago’s starting five with Jabari Parker was 66.2 and with Otto Porter Jr. is 77.2, which potentially is a big difference between Chicago on January 29, 2019, and last night. From an eyeball test, it was also Chicago’s aggressiveness and Brooklyn seemed to be missing a beat allowing the Chicago Bulls to shoot .541 from the field, .500 (14-of-28) from 3-point land and was out-rebounded 50-33. And, it’s obvious, if you can’t beat those numbers, you’re not going to win.

“I’ve said this before, but I thought we got a lot from a lot from a lot of guys,” Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen told the media. “Obviously, the addition of Otto Porter Jr. changes the way we look, how we play sliding Lauri Markkanen to the five. It’s obviously a difficult matchup for people. I thought we played hard. This team beat us three times and we defensively needed to do a better job. I thought defensively for most of the game we were really good, so I’m proud of us for that. We kind of ham and egged it a little bit. Kris Dunn had a great third quarter. Zach LaVine had his moments in the fourth. And we just kind of played together and I felt like we looked like a team out there and played like a team. I’m happy for them. I’m happy for our guys. I’m proud of our guys.”

“We just weren’t really locked in defensively tonight,” said Allen Crabbe. “They basically got whatever they wanted, did whatever they wanted to do. I don’t think we gave them any resistance on the defensive side. Guys were comfortable out there. They’ve got guys who are capable. It’s the NBA, regardless of their record, every team has players who can play, and we just weren’t ready to play tonight, and they took advantage of that.”

“Poor rating overall,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about his team’s performance last night. “Our defense was just non-existent. Couldn’t keep them in front of us. Couldn’t guard them. There wasn’t, one or two guys, I thought collectively we couldn’t guard them. Give them (Bulls) a lot of credit. I thought they played great. They obviously made shots. They added shooting with Otto (Porter Jr.) in there. It was really poor.”

And, Coach Atkinson said he tried everything.

“I think we tried one through 25 tonight,” Atkinson added. “If we had 25, we probably would have tried them. Yeah, we played some guys, but I don’t think that was an excuse tonight. They outplayed us 1 through 12. It’s just that simple. I don’t think tonight was a lineup thing.”

Truth.

Unfortunately, the Nets’ overall performance spoiled Caris LeVert’s return to the lineup. LeVert missed the previous 42 games with a subtalar dislocation of his right foot, which he sustained playing the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 12, 2018. Coming off the bench, LeVert gave the Nets an instant boost, which is what he always does. LeVert registered a career-high-tying (and Nets season-high) five steals, to go along with his 11 points, four assists, and two rebounds in 15 minutes.

“It felt good to get back out there with the team,” LeVert said about his return to the lineup. “Obviously, we didn’t get the win out there, but it felt good to be back out there for sure. I was kind of tired the first little stint I played, the first six minutes, but after that I kind of settled into the game and got more comfortable.”

Of course, when an athlete gets injured everyone is concerned about the return on a physical level.

“I prepared for it,” LeVert explained. “We put a lot of time in over the last couple of months, so it was kind of expected for me. I don’t want to make it about me because I wish we would have won the game for sure, but that’s expected. We didn’t come back to just be there. We wanted to be better than before.”

As for Coach Atkinson, LeVert’s return was the silver lining about last night’s game against the Bulls.

“If I had to take one positive from tonight that was a positive, I thought he looked good, looked athletic, he was athletic, came downhill like he does, make some passes,” Atkinson said. “Obviously there were a few bumps here and there, but for the most part I think he was a plus-five on the sheet, so he had some positives tonight and played well.”

D’Angelo Russell led the Nets’ with 23 points, six assists, and two steals; Joe Harris and Allen Crabbe each scored 19 points, and Harris added five assists to his total, and; Jarrett Allen chipped in 12 points and 10 rebounds.

For the Bulls, Lauri Markkanen led all scorers with 31 points, 18 rebounds, and two blocked shots; Zach LaVine added 26 points, five assists, three rebounds, and two steals; Otto Porter Jr. accumulated 18 points and four rebounds; Kris Dunn tallied 14 points, nine assists, and five rebounds; Robin Lopez registered 12 points and five rebounds, and; Wayne Selden chipped in 11 points.

The Bulls will play the Washington Wizards today, February 9, 2019, in the nation’s capital. Meanwhile, the Nets have two road games before the NBA All-Star break. The Nets will travel to Toronto to play the Toronto Raptors on Monday, February 11, 2019, and then the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. The next time the Brooklyn Nets will be at home is on Thursday, February 21, 2019, to play the Portland Trail Blazers at the Barclays Center at 7:30 p.m.

Nets continue to struggle to close out games; D’Angelo Russell scores 30 points in Nets loss

Seven is often looked upon as a lucky number in many quarters but when it comes to the Brooklyn Nets, the team isn’t wearing that number very well. Seven is the number of consecutive losses the Nets have racked up with its loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night. Yes, the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. The Nets lost to the Cavaliers 99-97.

With the loss, the Nets fell to 8-17 overall and 3-9 at Barclays Center, meanwhile, the Cavaliers improved to 5-18 overall and 2-10 on the road with the win. Of the last seven losses, only the 102-88 loss to the Washington Wizards was more than 10 points. The other six games were winnable. The Wizards game was the second of a back-to-back to which the team had to travel to Washington to play. Now, back-to-back games are not unique to the Nets; every team has back-to-back games on their schedule but watching the Nets play the Wizards on Saturday, you could see a certain kind of exhaustion. The Nets looked downright tired.

Fast-forward to Monday, team standouts D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie are still showing up even though Dinwiddie, who took and missed the last shot with three seconds left on the clock that could have given the Nets a win. Russell scored a game-high 30 points, his third-most points in a game this season. He also tallied eight rebounds, a game-high six assists, and two steals in 33 minutes.

When Russell was asked, where he was able to expose the Cavs and get hot, his response was very telling.

“I feel like I get what I want but it’s not really about the offense, Russell answered. “I would say for us it's defensively. We’ve got a few guys over here who can really get it going but, it’s defensive. At the end of the game, we need that stop. We always need that rebound and unfortunately, we don’t get it, so, the results are like this.”

Dinwiddie registered 18 points, four assists, and three rebounds in 32 minutes. Nets rookie, Rodions Kurucs, recorded a season-high-tying 12 points with four rebounds and one steal in 14 minutes off the bench. Kurucs shot 6-of-10 from the field last night, with his six field goals made and 10 field goals attempted both marking season highs.

Kurucs’ effort did not go unnoticed by Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.

“He just plays hard,” Atkinson commented about Kurucs' energy off the bench. “He’s got extreme energy, but he turned the game for us and got us back in it. His energy was contagious. He gets in there, so it’s good news for the Nets. Disappointing loss, but, to have a young player like that contribute at this level this early is good news.”

Kurucs, who is mainly hanging out with the Nets G-League team, has now scored in double figures in three games with the Nets this season. He previously scored in double figures in the second and third games of the season.

Could Kurucs be playing himself into the rotation?

“He’s in the conversation, you can’t deny it,” Atkinson responded. We’ll have to look at it. We’ll have to consider getting him minutes. I think he’s shown that he can do it. Now, it’s a competitive environment in the NBA. Minutes are out there, and guys have to compete for minutes, but he’s definitely earning some playing time.”

Shabazz Napier also scored in double figures for Brooklyn, posting 10 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 18 minutes off the bench. Napier has scored in double figures in four of his last six games, recording averages of 10.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game in those six contests.

Ed Davis, not a prolific scorer, made his expected contribution to Nets, pulling down 10 rebounds in 16 minutes.

For the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jordan Clarkson scored 20 points off the bench, along with 11 rebounds and four assists. Tristan Thompson registered 19 points and 14 rebounds; Collin Sexton tallied 15 points, and Alec Burks chipped 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

Next up for Cleveland will be the Golden State Warriors at home in Cleveland on Wednesday, December 5, 2018, at 7 p.m. ET.

The Brooklyn Nets will remain home to host Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Barclays Center on Wednesday, December 5, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

LeBron James carries his team; Game 1: JR Smith in a fog, possible pivotal point in 2018 NBA Finals for Cavs

 

Joe Harris scores a career-high 30 points in the loss

When the Cleveland Cavaliers come into your building, the operations change and it is unlike when any other team in the NBA arrives at your doorstep. The same can almost be said for in-arena activity.

At the end of 48 minutes, the Cavaliers had left its imprint on the Barclays Center defeating the Brooklyn Nets by only seven points, 121-114.

In the loss for the Nets, Joe Harris had a great night, scoring a career-high 30 points (11-of-14 FG, 6-of-7 3FG) with seven rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes off the bench. His previous career high was 21 points back on December 29, 2017, at Miami.
Harris’ 30 points also marked the most points scored by a Net off the bench this season.

“I think he’s good because he cuts off the ball, so against their switches, I think that messed with them,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about Joe Harris’ performance. “He’s a good cutter. Obviously came off some good screens. I thought our bigs set some really good screens for us. He gets out in transition. You know Joe’s had a darn good year. I think he’s struggled a little lately so it was nice to see him break out, have a really good game especially against his former team, so great for Joe, just stinks we couldn’t get the W for him.”

“I just got in the rhythm early,” Harris told the media about his performance today. “We were moving the ball well and I was able to get room and rhythm looks right off the get-go, knocked down my first couple. It just felt good after that and I was a little bit more aggressive, hunting into shots. I guess towards the end, especially I took a couple more chances on taking contested looks when we needed the three’s. But it started at the beginning of the game just us moving the ball, and me getting room and rhythm looks.”

“He’s been solid throughout the season,” Nets guard D’Angelo Russell said about his Harris’s performance. “He knows his job. He knows his role. He embraces it. He and a few others, they have that job to shoot the ball and space the floor and they embrace that. He does a great job at that as well.”

“This Brooklyn team has been a really tough team for us to play against all year long, whether we’re at our building or theirs,” said Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach Larry Drew. “I’m just proud that we hung in there. We got behind a little bit but we didn’t fold. LeBron (James) was once again spectacular. We got some really good play out of George Hill. Rodney Hood was really good for us as well. I’m just proud of the fact that we didn’t fold. We got behind, we kept grinding. I thought we gave a much better defensive effort in the second half than we did in the first half. ”

DeMarre Carroll posted 18 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals in 34 minutes today. Spencer Dinwiddie recorded 16 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 25 minutes off the bench today. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson totaled 15 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in 33 minutes. D’Angelo Russell also scored in double figures for the Nets with 12 points in 26 minutes today.

Entering today’s game, the Nets’ bench ranked as the second-highest scoring bench in the league with 43.5 ppg and Brooklyn’s bench outscored Cleveland’s bench 60-42 today, led by Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie.

For Cleveland, LeBron James led all scorers with 37 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Kevin Love added 20 points, 15 rebounds, and four assists. Jordan Clarkson recorded 18 points, George Hill contributed 17 points, four rebounds, and five assists, and Rodney Hood chipped in 16 points.

Next, the Cleveland Cavaliers will play the Miami Heat in Miami on Tuesday, March 27.

The Nets will fly to Orlando to play the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, March 28, 2017.

VIDEO DISCUSSION: Can the Cleveland Cavaliers regain its luster and make it to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals

In the video recorded on January 23, 2018, Keisha Wilson and Mike McDonald are talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers and their devastating 148-124 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Currently, the Cavs are third in the Eastern Conference and one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA this season. To make matters worse, there is a good deal of finger pointing going on in the locker room.

Nets overcome 28–point deficit to move within four points of Warriors, but couldn’t get the lead

Many a professional athlete or team has heard the term “fear no team” or “make them play your game” or “bring the game to them.” Unfortunately, during the first half of the Nets’ game against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday at the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn played as though they didn’t get this directive.

The Nets ended the first-half down 22 points with the score 64-42; and slipped to a 28-point deficit (78-50) with 8:34 left in the third stanza.

No disrespect to the home team because despite serious injuries to its top players D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin, the Nets are showing flashes of brilliance, most recently with its win against the Utah Jazz and the second half of this game against the Warriors.

The cause of the first-half free-fall is bewildering, but Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson says it was, “energy”.

“I would say energy, not being locked in from the start, Hollis-Jefferson offered as an explanation. “We have to put some blame on ourselves. Couple turnovers, missed shots. Just my energy wasn't there like it should be from the start of the game.”

But then suddenly, a switch was turned on and Brooklyn miraculously outscored the Warriors 42-34 in the third quarter. Those 42 points marking the most points the Nets have ever scored in any quarter this season (previous high: 39 points in the first quarter in its last game vs. Utah on Friday). Overall, the Nets outscored the Warriors 69-54 in the second half.

Even Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson couldn’t put his finger on what happened to make this game a tale of two halves?

“Our spirit,” responded Atkinson. “I really can’t explain what happened in the first half – why we came out so spiritless and lack of energy. Granted, great team and respect, I thought we were kind of frozen by the moment. The second half, our spirit was better. We competed much better. I thought we handled their switches a lot better, so a lot of positive things there. I thought Jarrett Allen came in and gave us a guy that could roll to the rim and that opened up a little bit for us.”

Energy and spirit are a bit ethereal, but somehow it translated into physicality in the second half in order for the Nets to claw its way back to within four points with two-and-half minutes left in the game. But, on the real, Atkinson believes it was the Nets’ defensive effort in the second half that helped.

“I thought we did a better job defensively fighting through their screens,” Atkinson continued. “That’s the real (thing). They have their on-ball screens, their pick-and-roll defense and they hit you on those screens and we’ve got to avoid – I thought we did a better job. And their off-ball screens, I thought we did a better job fighting through. But really, our offense was historically poor in that first half and talking about the defense, we just weren’t very good. I thought in the second half we figured out their switches a little better. We didn’t figure it out totally, but that’s what makes them so good. They can switch on you and then they can guard you. They can sit down and guard one through five, and it makes it difficult but we did do a better job of attacking the switches in the second half.”

However, as Atkinson said, in the second half, the Nets started fighting through screens on defense and attacking switches on offense, which ultimately helped the Nets to chip away at their deficit. Seeing the Nets storm back to come within four points of the Warriors with two-and-a-half minutes left to play was a bit worrisome for Golden State’s head coach Steve Kerr, but in the end, he breathed a sigh of relief and gave a tip of the hat to the Nets.

“Winning on the road on a back-to-back is a hard thing to do so it’s a great accomplishment to win these last two,” Kerr stated. “It wasn’t a great second half for us, obviously, but Brooklyn brought it and I give them credit. They (Nets) set the tone. We had to withstand their run and luckily we did. It was good execution in the last few minutes when Steph Curry went out.”

“In the second half Brooklyn was putting their heads down and going to the rim,” Kerr added. The aggressors will always get the benefit of doubt. They earned their free throws in the second half. We committed some silly fouls. We committed some that were questionable. It didn’t matter, they were the aggressors. That’s how they got back in the game, at the line.”

Hollis-Jefferson agreed.

“I would just say it was our resiliency, our grit, toughness, you know getting into the ball,” Hollis-Jefferson proffered. “Playing our game and having fun doing it. I feel like that got us over the hump. Enjoying seeing one another succeed was something, we kind of, it felt good to be out there doing that. The outcome wasn't as we expected, but we gotta give ourselves credit for that second half.”

For the Nets, Allen Crabbe scored a season-high-tying 25 points (9-of-19 FG, 6-of-11 3FG, 1-of-2 FT) with seven rebounds and two assists in 34 minutes in the Nets’ loss. Crabbe’s six made 3-pointers marked a season-high and matched the Nets’ season-high set by Spencer Dinwiddie’s six made threes on Friday vs. Utah.

Other Brooklyn Nets scoring leaders were Dinwiddie who posted 21 points with eight assists in 31 minutes. DeMarre Carroll recorded his second double-double of the season with 15 points and a season-high-tying 11 rebounds in 34 minutes. Hollis-Jefferson posted his first double-double of the season. He totaled 16 points, a game-high and season-high 12 rebounds and a season-high five assists. Caris LeVert came off the bench and tallied 13 points with four rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 22 minutes.

For the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry was a little more aggressive because of Kevin Durant’s absence. He scored 39 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out of the game. Draymond Green had eight assists for the Warriors.

Up next, the Brooklyn Nets will play the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Wednesday. The Nets next home game will be against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, November 24, 2017, at 12 noon at the Barclays Center.

Without D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie leads all Nets scorers to help overcome LeBron James’ triple-double for the win

When the NBA’s best Eastern Conference team with the best player in the league comes to play the team that finished last in the league, no one would begrudge you if you thought that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers would crush the Brooklyn Nets. However, in true Brooklyn Nets fashion, expect the unexpected; the Nets spoiled the Cavaliers narrative with a 112-107 upset. This isn’t supposed to happen and on the second night of a back-to-back, incredible!

With D’Angelo Russell on the bench, the Nets were a little sluggish shooting 2-of-11 from the field coming out the gate in the first stanza. But, then something clicked and the Nets finished the first quarter leading the Cavaliers led 26-23.

Spencer Dinwiddie in for Russell made the best of his “call-up.” Usually part of the second unit, on this night, Dinwiddie was part of the starting five. Maximizing the opportunity, Dinwiddie scored a career-high 22 points (7-of-13 FG, 4-of-8 3FG, 4-of-4 FT) to go along with five rebounds and a season-high six assists in a season-high 32 minutes.

“Spencer organized us,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “He hit some big shots, he was aggressive. We keep pushing him to be more aggressive, be more aggressive and tonight he really stepped up, hit some big shots and played excellent defense.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson put his "stamp on" the third quarter and when it was all said and done, Hollis-Jefferson scored a season-high 19 points with six rebounds, two assists and a season-high-tying three blocks in 35 minutes.

A real team effort, Allen Crabbe scored 19 points (6-of-14, 4-10 3PT, 3-3 FT), 3 assists, 2 rebounds in 24 minutes. DeMarre Carroll recorded 18 points, seven rebounds, and a season-high four steals in 32 minutes. Joe Harris’ ability to space the floor and his three-point shooting ability, gave the Nets 11 points (3-of-7 from three) in 18 minutes.

For Cleveland, LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists, and four blocked shots. Kyle Korver scored 22 points, Jeff Green added 18 points and six rebounds, and Kevin Love chipped in 15 points and 12 rebounds.

“They shoot the long ball and they shoot it, “said James. “They shot 46 three’s I believe. They’re just playing free, free of mind, that’s exactly how they are playing. They’re just moving it, they’re sharing it, and that’s good ball.”

“They let it fly,” Love added. “They drive the ball, drive-and-kick, and then play up-tempo. They use it as a weapon and showed that tonight.”

While Cleveland gave the Nets their props on a game well-played, Nets coach Atkinson tried to downplay it just a little.

“It’s the NBA and there’s another game in two days, but yeah I think it shows that we’re making progress. I’m sure they’re (Cavaliers) rounding into form, maybe not in peak form right now, I do understand that. We’re not going to celebrate all night long because of this but I do think we should feel good about ourselves and again I think it’s more about bouncing back from last night is a real key. Then on top of it, it’s a great team, it’s a good win for our organization.”

Big moves in the NBA, power centers shifted for NBA 2017-18 Season

In this Quick Bites segment:
Derrick Rose says he’s no longer in a “dark place,” he is happy with the Cavaliers.
Russell Westbrook signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the OKC Thunder and the OKC mayor declared everyday Russell Westbrook Day
• With Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony on the same team, NBA analyst Stephen Jackson said that OKC is the scariest team in the NBA.
Carmelo Anthony is happy being in OKC, he told ESPN, "... From an individual standpoint, I feel born again, feel rebirth, a different type of energy within myself, around the guys, around the organization, around the city. You can feel it."
• And, as we all know by now, Dwyane Wade has joined LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers

This one really hurt, riding a - game winning streak and creeping closer to the final playoff spot, the New York Knicks faced the Cleveland Cavaliers knowing the team they are chasing (Atlanta Hawks) had already lost earlier in the day. That news seemed to bolster the Blue and Orange from the very beginning as they jumped out to a 34-27 first quarter lead paced by Carmelo Anthony's 12 points.

The bench kicked in scoring a combined 17 points between Pablo Prigioni, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Shannon Brown to take a 1- point halftime lead. For a change, it appeared that New York regained the home court confidence they established last year. Then, Cleveland led by Jarrett Jack's (31) and Dion Waiters' (22) points played with the mindset that if they can't make the playoffs, neither should the Knicks.

The comeback began with the Cavs outscoring the Knicks 28-23 in the third getting within 7 (84-77). Then, New York could not hit a shot and could not defend the pick and roll. They missed 13 shots while turning the ball over 5 times. Meanwhile, Cleveland took advantage on the inside, scoring 40 points in the paint. They shot a ridiculous 77% in the second half erasing a 17-point deficit after a Jack 3-pointer with 3:54 left gave them their first lead of the game.

Waiters scored his last points with a trifecta and Anderson Varejao victimized the Knicks with yet another pick and roll ending in his slam extending the lead to 6 (100-94). A J.R. Smith jumper and two Anthony free throws got the Knicks within 2 (102-100) but that's as close as they would get.

As a unit, the Knicks knew they blew an opportunity to not only extend their winning streak to 8 but to get within 2 games of the Hawks. Especially knowing they are about to embark on a 5 game western swing that starts Tuesday night against the Kobe-less Lakers.

Head coach Mike Woodson wanted this game as a springboard to the upcoming trip.

"This was like a getaway game for us to get us set up for the road," he said afterward. "We didn't close it out. So we got to go on the road and win all 5 if we can."

Center Tyson Chandler (4 points) coming off the game against Philadelphia in which he scored 17 points in the win gave kudos to Jack.

"Jarrett Jack took control of the pick and roll in the second-half. He made some tough shots especially down the stretch."

The New York Knicks have 12 games left in the regular season, eight of them on the road.

If they do make the playoffs, they will face either Miami or Indiana. They will be facing teams that are still jockeying for playoff positions. That's why games like last night were one they could not afford to lose.

Big 4th Quarter from Kyrie Irving sends Nets to 5th straight loss

Kyrie Irving hasn’t played since last year when he scored 32 points in a win against the Boston Celtics on December 29. Unfortunately for the Brooklyn Nets who hosted the “Super Friends”, Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, Irving showed no signs of rust.

The sixth-year guard picked up from where he left off and torched the young Nets in the second half. He scored 16 of his 32 points in the 4th quarter, leading the Cavs, alongside Lebron James to an entertaining 116-108 win.

Through the first three quarters, Irving struggled from the field. He entered the fourth quarter with 16 points but shot five of 17 from the field. But when it mattered, “Uncle Drew” showed up. The Nets cut what was an 18-point lead from the Cavs to six to start the 4th quarter, down 86-80, capped off by a three from Caris LeVert with 10 minutes left until the end of regulation. Irving then took over.

After two made free-throws, Irving would go on a 10-6 run all by himself. He drained a couple of threes in the eyes of the defense and capped off his run converting a tough contested reverse layup that put the Cavs up by 16, 98-82 with 7:36 left in the fourth.

“He (Irving) loves big moments,” James said post-game. “No matter if a team with a record that they have and the record that we have, games get close he’s going to step up to the plate and its always great to see him come through.”

Despite the Cavs lead the Nets continued to fight. After James connected on a turnaround bank shot that put the Cavs up by 12, 100-88 with 5:45 left in the quarter, Bojan Bogdanovic hit a three-pointer that pulled the Nets to within nine.

The Nets would cut the deficit to within seven on a running layup by Trevor Booker, 113-106 with 1:17 left but by then it was already too late. Despite the offensive success the Cavs enjoyed in addition to the win, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson was satisfied with his team’s defensive effort.

“I know the score looks high, but I think for the pace, our defense was much better, much better than last night so I’m happy with that,” Atkinson said post-game.

Like Irving, Kevin Love struggled early as well. At the end of the third, Love scored 14 points on four of 12 shooting but it didn’t matter. Irving caught fire and James added a sneaky team-high 36 points which included several signature James dunks to wow the crowd.

Whether it’s James or Irving or even Love, the Cavs’ big three are too much for just about anybody.

“It’s pick your poison you know,” Atkinson said. “They just spread you out with their shooting and obviously they’ve got two excellent “iso” players in Irving and James.”

As for Brooklyn, LeVert enjoyed a career night. The rookie out of Michigan who missed summer league and struggled to stay on the court through training camp, due to a left foot fracture scored 19 points on 58 percent shooting from the field. He hit some big shots to keep the Nets competitive late in the game and even guarded James on occasion, welcoming the defensive challenge.

“I love competition,” LeVert said post-game. “I’m from Ohio as well, so I grew up watching them (Cavaliers) play a lot, so that’s someone that I’ve wanted to play against since I was younger, so I just wanted to compete.”

On offense, LeVert said that he tried to stay aggressive the whole game and was encouraged by his coaches and teammates to do so.

“I felt like Caris really stepped it up there and made some really good plays,” said Atkinson on the rookie’s play.

Other than Caris, Booker added a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, Bogdanovic scored a team-high 23, Brook Lopez added 17 and Isaiah Whitehead added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

It’s difficult to find the good in any loss but against the Cavs, the play of the younger pieces on the Nets was encouraging to see and even still, Lopez believes the Cavs are just one of 30 teams that the Nets will have to treat equally.

“It’s important to treat every game like that,” Lopez said post-game. “I know it’s easy to prepare and get ready for a game like this and get up for a game like this when you’re playing the premier players in the league, but you have to treat every game like this. Our next one is just as important. We have to take it one game at a time.”

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