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Shorthanded Nets fight but fall in Cleveland, 124-116

San Antonio Spurs v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Nets began the first game of their back-to-back against the defending champs in Cleveland. So, naturally, with a back-to-back that means somebody will sit out and on Friday night, it was Brook Lopez and Caris LeVert. Trevor Booker also sat due to an illness and Jeremy Lin is still down, with a hamstring injury.

“No, I feel good. I feel [fine],’’ LeVert told The Post, saying there was no problem but merely precautionary. “Yeah, that’s the general feeling not overdoing it. I think I’ve done a good job up to this point with my staying healthy, staying religious to my rehab, we just want to make sure we don’t have any slippage.”

“We think of the player, what’s best for the player,’’ coach Kenny Atkinson said “They’ll both play [Saturday at Minnesota]. It’s just part of the plan, part of what we’re doing.”

It’s all part of the development process. But that doesn’t necessarily makes things any easier.

Here you have the Cleveland Cavaliers at 31-14 sitting atop the Eastern Conference with LeBron James pleading to the front office that they don’t have enough talent, particularly in the playmaking department.

Then, you have the 9-37 Brooklyn Nets siting alone at the very bottom of the East, in need of a lot of things, but none more than a simple win.

That didn’t happen for a fourth consecutive game, as Brooklyn hung around in the first half, but collapsed in the third quarter and lost, 124-116, at Quicken Loans Arena. Kyrie Irving scored 20 of his 28 points in the third, propelling the Cavaliers to a 39-point quarter and 21-point lead. It was the 30th straight road loss to an Eastern Conference rival.

“They had a lot of guys out, but they played hard,’’ Kevin Love said.

The young Nets deserve credit for fighting as hard as they could -- especially a 43-point fourth quarter, but they were simply outmatched. Resting players or not.

With the loss, the Nets have lost four straight and fell to 2-20 on the road.

The shorthanded Brooklyn kids hung around for as long as they could. They trailed by two at half, and then 11 at one point in the second quarter, but stayed persistent and cut it back down to two. Bojan Bogdanovic anchored the Nets with 10 points in the half, while the other eight players who received minutes scored at least three or more.

Their defense helped them stay close, that is, until former (New Jersey) Net Richard Jefferson nailed a 3-pointer to close out the half, which gave Cleveland a 55-47 lead at the break.

And then, ya’ know, the third quarter happened and the Cavaliers turned it up a notch, specifically Irving.

Irving went for 20 points in the third quarter and carried the Cavaliers to a 39-point quarter. Brooklyn’s deficit was 21 (94-73) entering the fourth quarter. Irving finished the night with 28 points, six assists and two blocked shots.

The Nets tried repeatedly to make a run in the fourth quarter and got closest at the final buzzer, cutting the deficit to eight after an 18-8 run. They outscored the Cavs 43-30 in the fourth quarter, but it came just a bit too late.

The Nets shot the ball at 49 percent, an impressive 16-of-33, from hree-point range.

Sean Kilpatrick led with 18 points. Bojan Bogdanovic had 17 points, Randy Foye 16 points (and eight rebounds), Isaiah Whitehead 16 points and Justin Hamilton 12.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers shot 53 percent overall and out-rebounded Brooklyn, 47-37. LeBron James finished with 31 points and 11 assists, but committed five turnovers. Both Love (13 points and 14 rebounds) and Tristan Thompson (10 points and 10 rebounds) finished with impressive double doubles to help contribute to the win.

The real winner in all of this? The Boston Celtics.


Quincy Acy played the next-to-last game of his second 10-day contract, which expires this upcoming Monday before the Nets play Miami. He’s averaged 7.3 points and 2.5 rebounds on 66.7 percent shooting from 3-point in 10.6 minutes per game (10 games).

“No decision yet. Again, we’ll see more of him; but we’ve been pleased with how he’s adapted, we like his versatility, we like how he brings a toughness,’’ Atkinson said of Acy.

“His perimeter shooting is obviously intriguing, the way he’s shooting the ball. I don’t think it’s an anomaly. I can see the way he gathers it and his balance and how he realizes it. Why can’t this guy be a pretty good shooter in this league, 3-point shooter? So we’re intrigued. He’s done well.”

Next up: Tomorrow at Minnesota, 9 p.m.