Saturday, January 4, 2014

Nets finish off Cavs in fourth quarter for second straight win

Photo credit: David Richard- USA TODAY Sports
Coming off a huge win in Oklahoma City, the Nets welcomed the Cleveland Cavaliers to Brooklyn for a match-up between two 11-21 teams. Cleveland was without their star Kyrie Irving, but still put up a fight against the Kevin Garnett-less Nets. Andray Blatche made his return to the court tonight after missing four games for personal reasons. The Nets blew a halftime lead in the third quarter, but were able to beat the Cavs 89-82.

The first quarter was all about two guys: Deron Williams and Reggie Evans (seriously). Both Deron and Reggie led the Nets to a 22-17 lead after the first quarter, each having scored eight points. The Nets shot 50% from the field in the first quarter, and it was clear that there was a carry-over from the Oklahoma City game. On two occasions, Deron Williams put on a dribbling display and crossed the heck out of both Jarrett Jack and Matthew Dellavedova.

If you thought the first quarter was fun to watch, you absolutely loved the second quarter. The Nets continued their hot shooting and increased their shooting percentage to 53% for the half. After outscoring Cleveland 29-21 in the quarter, they led 51-38 at halftime. Both teams hit a scoring drought between the 8 and 6:30 mark in the quarter, but the Nets would instantly get off to a 16-4 run to increase their lead to double digits.

The Nets were playing fantastic basketball on both sides of the court. The defense held the Cavaliers to just 40.5% shooting from the field in the half, and the intensity level was as high as we've seen all season. What was also clear in the first half for Brooklyn was that Deron Williams can still ball when his team needs him most. The Nets were very good with the ball in the half, turning it over just three times while forcing 6 Cleveland turnovers. The Cavaliers simply didn't have anyone to help contain Deron and Paul Pierce, who saw himself putting up 11 first half points, which put him in sole possession of 19th place on the all-time scoring list, passing Allen Iverson.

All those good things that happened in the first half... all the fun things? They stopped happening in the third quarter, just as they have all season. The Nets' 13 point halftime lead was erased completely until Mirza Teletovic took the lead back on a three pointer with 14 second left in the quarter. Cleveland out-scored the Nets 27-16 in the quarter, but it would've been much worse had the second unit not come in hitting free throws and a couple shots. Cleveland went on multiple short runs led by Dion Waiters' hot shooting, allowing them to erase the Nets' lead.

Starting the fourth quarter off continuing a 16-4 extended run is the way to build leads. The Cavaliers, who led by five in the third, allowed the Nets to get off to that run and build the lead back up. the first five minutes of the fourth quarter were all about Teletovic and Andray Blatche, as both combined to score the first nine points of the quarter for Brooklyn. The Cavs started the fourth shooting 1/9 from the field, which also contributed to the Nets taking the lead for good. Brookyln out-scored the Cavs 22-17 in the quarter, sending them to a 89-82 victory.

There's a huge difference in the Nets now that they have the AK-47 back. Kirilenko is a key piece to this team, and it's easy to see now why they struggled without him. His ability to cut to the basket, find open teammates, and play excellent defense is a huge difference-maker, and he gives the Nets energy. He showed that tonight, and he also added eight points and two rebounds on the stat sheet in just 14 minutes.

Deron Williams led the Nets with 21 points and six assists while shooting 6/9 from the field. Paul Pierce added 17 points on 6/14 shooting and also dished out five assists. Reggie Evans finished with eight points, but grabbed 11 rebounds. Andray Blatche, in his first game back, had 12 points and grabbed five rebounds.

Final Score: 89-82 NETS
Most Disappointing Stat of the Game: Joe Johnson 2 points on 1/7 shooting.
Promising Stat of the Game: Andray Blatche scoring 12 points after missing four games.
Scariest Moment of the Game: Cavs taking a five point lead in third quarter. 
Best Moment of the Game: Deron Williams breaking ankles and being D-Will. 

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