It only took three quarters, but the Nets broke through the wall against the Cavs in a big way on Wednesday night.
But before we get to the highlights, we have to hit on the lowlights.
The first half for both teams was pretty flat — to say the least. Neither team shot above 35 percent and it was difficult for the Nets to find a rhythm.
Brooklyn was getting good looks, but finishes were hard to come by. Jarrett Allen had some tough misses in the paint and Caris LeVert was a bit rusty throughout the game.
With the team coming off three full days’ rest this early in the season, it seemed as if the pieces were aligned to get a win over a 0-3 Cavaliers squad. But it took some time to get there.
Two pieces off the bench that helped the Nets were the season debuts of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, after the birth of his son, and Shabazz Napier, after a nursing a hamstring strain. RHJ brought great energy and pace to the game while Napier was a threat from distance.
The Cavaliers made their moves in the second quarter after a few runs gave them a 31-30 lead. Allen Crabbe was struggling from the field and the Nets allowed Cleveland to get momentum.
After a tie game at the half, the tides shifted as Brooklyn started getting stops and getting shots to fall in the third quarter.
D’Angelo Russell led the way in the third and throughout the night in his best game of the season. His 18 points and eight assists kept the ball moving for Brooklyn, and he applied pressure when needed.
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Joey “Buckets” Harris also came alive, finishing 4-of-5 from three on the night with 16 points. Along with Jared Dudley, who was also 4-of-5 from three, the Nets made their push in a quarter where they outscored the Cavs by 21 points.
From that point on, it was a no-doubter.
The Nets kept the pressure applied in the fourth quarter and maintained a double-digit lead throughout. The Cavs never found a shooting stroke, or became a threat from three, and the Nets continued to distribute the ball and attack the paint.
The team finished 14-of-34 from three, good for 41.2 percent, compared to the Cavs’ 3-of-18 performance.
It was good to see this effort from the Nets after an evenly-matched and lackluster start. Yes, it was against the Cavs, but the takeaway is the lead Brooklyn built.
Would last year’s Nets team have won by 16, or would they have just squeaked by? It was not just a battle of who would miss more, which is a breath of fresh air for this team.
Either way, after a poor start, holding the Cavaliers to 86 points, having six players in double digits and seeing players like D’Angelo, Jared Dudley and Ed Davis playing well is as good a way to come off a three-day break as any.
Kevin love put up 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers, but he was out-worked in the paint.
Also, Richard Jefferson as an in-game analyst is a big win for YES Network. Wins all around tonight.
Now let’s see if that streak by the 2-2 Nets holds up against the 3-0 Pelicans on Friday.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
18 PTS, 5-14 FG, 2-7 3FG, 6-6 FT, 1 REB, 8 AST, 1 TO, 27 MIN
This was D’Angelo’s best game by far this season. While his shot was not falling as often as others’, he was engaged early and often when other players had yet to get their footing. His 10 points in the second quarter kept the Nets afloat.
The ball was also distributed well throughout the game, and D’Angelo’s eight assists compared to just one turnover reflect that.
Brooklyn gets its identity when D-Lo is on point, no doubt.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Power Forward
8 PTS, 3-10 FG, 0-2 3FG, 2-4 FT, 8 REB, 1 STL, 1 TO, 21 MIN
Welcome back, RHJ! His presence on defense was felt immediately, and having the extra body to capture rebounds made a difference for Brooklyn. In 21 minutes tonight, his near double-double was good to see from the longest-tenured Net.
Joe Harris Shooting Guard
16 PTS, 6-9 FG, 4-5 3FG, 6 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 2 TOV, 27 MIN
Joey Buckets! He started 4-of-4 from three and gave Brooklyn the boost it needed before everyone clicked in the third quarter.
Jared Dudley Small Forward
12 PTS, 4-5 FG, 4-5 3FG, 1 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 24 MIN
Joining Joey Buckets in the three-point department was Jared Dudley, who was 3-for-3 in the third quarter to get past the first-half slump. He was impressive, and it was good to see him get into his rhythm.
Ed Davis Center
10 PTS, 4-6 FG, 10 REB, 1 TO, 17 MIN
A double-double in 17 minutes off the bench for Ed Davis. The best part of it? Six of those rebounds were on the offensive end. That makes a BIG difference in Brooklyn’s life in key times where the momentum can swing.
Without Davis, the Nets would have had just two offensive rebounds. Second chances are everything, and Davis made that happen.