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Nets stop depleted Cavs late-game comeback, beating Cleveland, 109-99

Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets

A win is a win. And a win after a bad loss is nice, too.

The Nets defeated the Cavaliers Wednesday night at Barclays Center, 109-99. With the win, Brooklyn improves to 11-5 on the young season and extends their home winning streak against the Cavs to four games. Brooklyn is now above .500 at home.

The Cavs were without three bigs: Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen as well as guard Collin Sexton.

“A lot of ups and downs. In the second half, we just had a meltdown and they capitalized. They made shots. We are fortunate they missed a lot of open shots. In the second half, they made a lot of them, so the good thing is we came away with the win and we just got to keep improving,” said James Harden on the win. “No excuses.”

“It wasn’t a good showing for four quarters, but we came away with the win and we just got to keep pushing forward,” Harden added.

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins but LaMarcus Aldridge delivered for Brooklyn when the team needed it most. Aldridge — who finished with 24 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field and 0-of-2 from deep off the bench — scored 19 of his points in the fourth to help the Nets avoid a late-game blunder. The veteran big snagged seven rebounds and dished two assists as well in the victory.

“I think every game is a different game,” said Nash on Aldridge playing high minutes off the bench. “Tonight we had it going and we had to keep separation so he played a longer stint but it could be different next game, I think. We’ll just stay flexible.”

James Harden also showed up for the Nets, finishing with a double-double of 27 points and 10 rebounds to go along with seven assists in 37 minutes of play. Kevin Durant added to the scoring with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting overall and 2-of-3 from deep in 37 minutes of action. Durant also passed Nash for 26th all-time on the NBA’s list for 3-pointers made.

“He’s one of the best who has ever played the game so it’s no surprise. It was coming I’m sure,” Nash said on Durant passing him on the list.

Patty Mills, who started for the second-straight game, made it four Nets with 20+ points. He delivered another strong scoring punch for Brooklyn. The veteran guard scored 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 6-of-12 from three in 35 minutes of action.

Overall, Brooklyn shot 45.8 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from deep in the win while dishing 29 assists on their 38 made shots. For the first time this season, the Nets finished with four players scoring at least 20 points.

“It was a little bit better, in particularly the first half,” said Nash on the Nets’ ball movement. “I thought we did a really good job attacking early, moving the ball, assists: 17 assists and three turnovers in the first half, so much improved.”

The Nets started Harden, Mills, Durant, Brown and Griffin. Brooklyn’s ball movement was sharp from the tip, forcing the Cavs defense to shift as they opened up pockets of space, Brooklyn’s make-shift starting line-up opened things with a 6-0 run and despite going scoreless for nearly three minutes and allowing Cleveland to knot the game up at 11 with 6:37 remaining in the first, it was again the defense that served as a catalyst to a quick 8-0 run to extend an eight-point advantage.

Cleveland forged a 9-2 run to keep the game within single-digits and ended the first frame, trailing 31-25. The Nets dished out an assist on all 10 made shots, led by Durant with 13 points in 12 minutes of play. The first quarter lead marked the ninth time in the last 10 games the team has led after one.

Brooklyn’s offense was flowing through stellar ball movement early, mounting an 18-point advantage midway through the second. Then a common theme once again arose: letting the foot off the gas. The Nets offense struggled to space the floor and went cold, going over three minutes without a basket. Turnovers allowed the Cavs to cut the deficit to 11 points but Brooklyn’s offense turned it on late. The Nets finished the half on a Griffin alley-oop slam to give the team a 21-point lead (62-41).

In the half, Durant led the Nets with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 from deep followed by Harden with 16 points, five rebounds and four assists in 18 minutes. Mills provided a spark with 10 points in 16 minutes. As a team, Brooklyn finished the first two frames shooting 47.6 percent overall and 43.8 percent from deep. Ricky Rubio had it going for Cleveland, scoring 18 points in 17 minutes.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

But the Nets left the door open in the third. The Cavs got off on a 16-7 run midway through the third and followed it up with a 9-0 run to cut the Nets 21-point advantage down to only nine points (73-64) with 3:13 remaining. Brooklyn struggled to buy consistent buckets in the frame, but Cleveland never was able to trim the deficit to a single possession. As the third-quarter buzzer sounded, the Cavs came within eight points (81-73), hitting the final 12 minutes of play.

“We just came out sloppy in the third. I don’t think we had the focus or intensity,” said Nash on the Nets' poor third quarter. “We just left our foot off the gas.”

Cleveland remained within striking distance, resulting in Nash and the Nets subbing Durant back into the contest with 7:32 remaining to pair with Harden on the floor. Brooklyn entered the final four minutes of play nursing a seven-point lead. The Cavs made the Nets work for the win but Aldridge kept the ship afloat late, scoring 19 of his 24 points in the final frame. Harden delivered a wing three to ice the contest and escape with the win.

The Film Room

The Nets looked sluggish closing out what’s been a brutal stretch of games — a 6-game road trip that ran directly into a back-to-back, the first of which was against the best team in the league, the Golden State Warriors. As mentioned, Brooklyn faltered in the third quarter after a quintessentially efficient first half of ball movement and well-executed plays. Things got pretty tense when the Cleveland Cavaliers brought the lead to single digits. The body language got tight.

Then, the veterans delivered.

Four players finished with 20 or more points. We’re sure you can guess the first two: the Big 2, Kevin Durant and James Harden. But the other contributors? You’re looking at two guys with San Antonio roots, Patty Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge, who put up a combined 45 points on Wednesday night.

LaMarcus Aldridge and James Harden continued to display their two-man chemistry, with the Beard hitting Aldridge in his favorite spots, specifically that 15-foot range near the free-throw line for pick-and-pops. That specific action is becoming one of Brooklyn’s most reliable sources of offense when the going gets tough, evidence that two all-time great offensive orchestrators need time and reps to learn how to co-exist.

Granted, that’s not all Aldridge did. He had himself a handful of solid at-rim finishes, including two hammering dunks. His mobility has been noticeably impressive this year after such a long hiatus. This is quite the athletic finish on the move!

Patty Mills, meanwhile, continued to wreak havoc as Brooklyn’s best only capable off-ball player (with Joe Harris out). He streaked off pin downs, played the role of the receiver in dribble-handoff sets, and kept Cleveland’s defense on its toes with his never-ending motor. Here, Mills receives the ball off a handoff from James Harden out of “Pistol” formation and he dials it up from deep.

“Nothing’s gonna be handed to us on a silver platter. It’s a grind, it’s a marathon. And nights like tonight, you just got to dig deep and find a way to be infectious in a good way and be able to spread those good vibes on the court, on the bench, no matter what it is,” said Patty Mills about the victory.

What’s the old saying? If you talk the talk, you’d better walk the walk? Yeah, six made threes later, Patty Mills certainly upheld that golden rule against the Cavaliers.

Updates on Nic Claxton and Paul Millsap

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Prior to Wednesday’s game against the Cavaliers, Steve Nash provided updates on Nicolas Claxton (non-Covid related illness) and Paul Millsap (personal reasons).

The Nets head coach said Claxton is not close to a return. Claxton, who has only played four games this season, needs to improve his conditioning, according to his head coach.

“I think he’s got a ways to go. He’s got to really work on his conditioning. I'm not sure when he’ll be back or when he’ll be back with the necessary thrust and dynamic ability to play the game at this level,” said Nash on Claxton. “So, hopefully, it's not too long but I don’t think in the next few games.”

Nash was asked whether Millsap’s personal absence is correlated with him having inconsistent minutes on the floor in his 12 games played. The Nets head coach denied that is the case, calling his absence strictly a personal matter.

“Paul’s away for personal reasons and that’s totally separate from basketball,” Nash said.

Sean Marks with the assist

The Brooklyn Brigade was understandably down after the loss to the Warriors Monday, but they hung in till the end, and added a new member to their newly adorned “hard hat, steel tips” crew, who offered his encouragement...

Then, Tuesday night, they got a visit from Sean Marks who cheered THEM on...

Milestone Watch

Only one tonight.

With his first 3-pointer of the game, Kevin Durant (1,686) moved past Steve Nash (1,685) into 26th place on the NBA’s all-time 3-pointers made list. Next up: Dale Ellis (1,719).

Summing up

—Nets and Wizards basically tied for #1 seed in East; Nets at 11-5, Wizards 10-4.

—Nets have best in-conference record in East (9-4);

—Nets have most road wins in NBA (6);

—Nets have best record in East over last 10 games (8-2), Only Suns (10-0) have been better. Warriors also 8-2.

And in a rare home head-to-head with the Knicks, the Nets-Cavaliers game outdrew the Knicks-Magic, both in raw attendance, 16,922 to 16,680, and percentage of seats sold, 95.4 percent to 84.2

What’s next

The Nets will host the Magic on Friday, November 19 at the Barclays Center. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective, check out Fear The Sword — our sister site covering the Cavaliers.