With the Nets’ November promising a number of nights on the road against stiff competition, a home date with the LeBron-less Cavaliers was one Avery Johnson’s bunch needed to right the ship. However, standout nights from Travis Outlaw and Devin Harris weren’t enough to halt the Nets’ losing streak, which stretched to five games after Cleveland’s 93-91 win in Newark.
Winning time: The Nets (2-5) needed a stop with the Cavs up four with just under two minutes to go, and appeared to get one when Brook Lopez blocked Daniel Gibson’s driving layup with just five ticks left on the shot clock. But Antawn Jamison gained control of the loose ball on the right wing and swung it to Anthony Parker at the top of the key, who hoisted a high-arcing, desperate 3-point attempt as the shot clock expired and swished it to put Cleveland up seven. The Nets were able to work it back down to a one-possession game in the final minute, but once Parker’s shot went it, it became evident that this just wasn’t going to be New Jersey’s night.
How the night was won: The Cavaliers (4-3) prevailed because of bench scoring and 3-point shooting, and the two certainly weren’t mutually exclusive. Cleveland’s bench outscored New Jersey’s reserves 52-15, highlighted by an 8-of-10 3-point shooting performance. Long distance makes can often be a cure-all for other ills, and the 3-point sharpshooting from Daniel Gibson (4-of-5) and Antawn Jamison (3-of-4) kept the Cavs in control down the stretch.
Odds are most Cavaliers’ fans wouldn’t be optimistic about their team’s chances on a night when leading scorer Mo Williams goes 1-for-12 from the field, but backup point guard Ramon Sessions played an efficient and highly effective game off the bench. The Cavs, looking to play as more of a team without LeBron this season, did just that, and Sessions was the catalyst of a lot of nice-looking possessions for Cleveland. The Cavaliers held a 27 to 18 edge in assists over the Nets.
Cleveland did leave the door open, however, between Williams’ performance and a 12-of-22 night from the free throw line, but a big reason the Nets couldn’t capitalize was Devin Harris’ early foul trouble. Harris picked up three fouls in the first half and totaled just 28 minutes on a night where Cleveland really didn’t have an answer for him defensively. When he was on the floor, he was often a source of instant offense, driving to the hoop at will where he was able to score, draw contact and create plays for his teammates. With Lopez continuing his offensive cold streak and playmaker Terrence Williams sidelined with a strained abdominal muscle, the Nets often struggled to string together fluid possessions when Harris was on the bench. They were clearly a different team when he wasn’t leading the charge tonight. Travis Outlaw, who led the Nets with 27 points, shot his jumper with confidence and scored off looks from Harris and off the bounce. He was able to keep the Nets afloat, but didn’t get enough support to lead the Nets to a win.
Player of the game: Sessions was the difference late in the game, playing in place of a struggling Mo Williams in the fourth quarter. He hit six of his 11 field goal attempts, scored 15 points and dished out five assists in 23 minutes off the bench.
Other key stat lines:
- J.J. Hickson: 8-of-14 shooting, 18 points, 10 rebounds
- Antawn Jamison: 6-of-10 shooting, 3-of-4 3-point shooting, 15 points, 8 rebounds
- Daniel Gibson: 5-of-10 shooting, 4-of-5 3-point shooting, 14 points, 4 assists
- Anderson Varejao: 10 points, 7 rebounds
- Travis Outlaw: 11-of-22 shooting, 4-of-7 3-point shooting, 27 points, 7 rebounds
- Devin Harris: 6-of-12 shooting, 18 points, 6 assists, 3 steals
- Brook Lopez: 6-of-18 shooting, 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks
- Troy Murphy: 5 points, 11 rebounds
One takeaway from tonight’s game: The Nets have shown that they have a number of capable offensive performers in their current rotation, but there haven’t been enough guys “on” in any one night this entire season. Johnson said in his post-game press conference that he’s looking forward to Outlaw and Morrow putting forth strong performances in the same game, something that has eluded the pair of starting wings through the first seven games. The halfway point, Johnson said, is when he’s hoping to be able to say that this new-look, young team has been molded into a finished product. But the Nets have enough talent to win games like the tonight’s right now and it’s tough for them to let opportunities like these slip away because of inconsistency.
Notes: Williams’ injury was sustained in New Jersey’s practice on Monday. Quinton Ross filled in his spot in the rotation and played 19 minutes … Lopez, who shot a shade under 50 percent from the field last season, has gone 20-for-68 (29 percent) over his last four games. His scoring average over that stretch is 13.8 points per game, down significantly from the 24.7 points per game he posted in the Nets’ first three games this season. The Nets are now 0-4 when Lopez fails to reach 20 points … The Cavs will host the Nets tomorrow night the conclude the home-and-home set.