Dear Diary II: The Nets beat the Cavaliers

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Final: 03/24/2016

W 104 95

7:01 PM: The Nets have unveiled their new D-League logo, in my heart of hearts, I know this will be the high note of tonight’s basketballing affair.

7:42 PM: LeBron James throws the first Cavaliers possession straight out of bounds. I hope he doesn’t unfollow me on Twitter.

Look, if you’re reading this — we’re on the same page, the Nets stink. This is, coincidently, the same page we were all on when I did the live journal grades aginst the Cavaliers on January 21st.

Since that 78-91 loss, the Cavaliers have gone 22-9 .

The Nets? Just 8-19.

I so badly wish we could end the grades there, but alas.

7:48 PM: Mike Fratello talks in length about Sergey Karsev’s matador defense against LeBron James. It’s true, Karasev ducked out of the way — but with Bogdanovic on James in the first place, you’re just asking for a disaster.

Believe it or not, mostly in thanks to Shane Larkin’s immense prowess (7 points), the Nets actually led at 15-14. This can’t continue as all good Nets things come to a swift end.

Dubbed as the new and improved energy unit by YES Network’s Ryan Ruocco, the addition of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Sean Kilpatrick proved to be crucial. Kilpatrick, who picked up right where he left off against Charlotte, scored 4 points in quick succession, shooting with the bravado of a seasoned veteran.

Hey, could we do this?

With about 2 minutes left in the first quarter, the Nets remained up 21-18. Fantastic, yes — but foreboding? Perhaps even more so. The Cavaliers, who uncharacteristically turned the ball over 7 times in the first, shot 61% from the floor. A sign of things to come undoubtedly.

8:04 PM: The Miami Hurricanes trail Villanova by 6 at halftime in the NCAA Sweet 16 — quick, somebody tell Shane and see how he reacts. Nets and his 7 points lead this game 26-23 after one quarter.

8:05 PM: Wait, what?

8:09 PM: Hollis-Jefferson versus Richard Jefferson is a massive battle of the Nets’ past versus the future. RHJ, who went to Arizona as well, wears Jefferson’s #24, the same number he wore over 7 years with New Jersey.

Mid-sentence, as if on cue, RHJ makes an exquisite steal and save just before Chris McCullough threw down a massive jam in the paint. Youth and athleticism, commence.

While the Cavaliers continued to get any shot they wanted in the paint, the Nets hung tough through Kilpatrick, the journeyman baller who has never met a shot he didn’t like.

8:17 PM: Donald Sloan hits a three-pointer, the Nets lead 41-37. Markel Brown swats Kyrie Irving. Is this a fantasy? A fever dream? Are the Nets the new #1 seed in the Eastern Conference? That’s how this works, right?

8:26 PM: A 14-2 run has the Nets ahead 50-39. Kilpatrick has shot a team-high 8 times, but has made just 3. This makes zero sense. Sergey Karasev started this game. Brook Lopez is 2-5. Shall I continue?

8:35 PM: LeBron James dunks. Ho-hum. We’ve seen this before — where’d Kilpatrick go? That dude was exciting. The Nets lead at halftime by 10. I’m no longer wearing socks.

8:53 PM: I wasn’t dreaming, the Nets lead by 10 in this reality.

8:58 PM: Sergey Karasev on LeBron James is unfair.

Perhaps motivated by the thought of losing to a 19-win team, James came out firing in the second half — but the Nets took their punches in stride. Fueled by Larkin and Lopez’s two-man game and Bogdanovic’s long-range shooting, they, more or less, defused James’ perfect 10-10 start from the field. J.R. Smith, who was held to 0 points in the first half, scored an early 8 and Kevin Love added some tough points under the rim to keep things close.

9:05 PM: “Keep things close.”

“Keep things close.”

Wow, what a world we live in.

9:11 PM: LeBron James, 13-14 FG, 30 points — OK, that sounds about right. The Cavaliers lead 83-80 after three quarters. It’s strange though, until Lopez picked up a questionable 4th foul, the Cavaliers really had no answer for the Larkin-Lopez duo. Although, this game always seemed destined for the Cleveland comeback — they actually have zero players, no matter how long Hollis-Jefferson may be, that can matchup against James and he knew it.

But, all things considered, the Nets did a fairly good job against the Cavaliers, as un-scientific as that may sound. Minus James’ 30, the only other Cavalier in double-figures up until now was Irving with 13. The Nets are not really great at… anything, but three full quarters of effort and, most importantly, winning basketball, cannot be looked past.

And yet, despite all the inherent, genetic differences between the Nets and Cavaliers, there they were up by two points thanks to three straight baskets by Hollis-Jefferson to start the fourth.

Oh, right — where were we?

9:20 PM: I LOVE YOU, RONDAE HOLLIS-JEFFERSON.

It’s insane — a casual onlooker might look at his statline of 10 points and 7 rebounds and just shrug, but he absolutely changes everything for Brooklyn. After his role as the catalyst in the Nets’ 14-0 run against Charlotte on Tuesday, he played it again during the early fourth tonight.

9:30 PM: Lopez checks in — I feel warm, I feel safe.

9:31 PM: LeBron.

9:32 PM: LeBron.

9:36 PM: BOGDANOVIC! Using that right hand like a running back loves a good stiff arm, he fends off LeBron James in mid-air for 2 points and I’ve never felt so alive.

9:39 PM: Young, Brown, Lopez’s flurry of baskets put the Nets up by 9. By 9! The Nets are having one of their best games of the year while the Cavaliers can’t buy a point from anybody other than James. If I had told you two hours ago that the Nets would be up by 9 points with 2 minutes left, you’d have laughed at me.

I’m laughing at me now.

Following Hollis-Jefferson’s minutes restriction being met, it was up to Brown to finish things off for the Nets. A corner three-pointer and tip slam later, the win was as good as sealed for the Nets.

When have the Nets ever “sealed” a basketball game. Sealed is a confident word. A successful word. The Nets sealed this game against the Cavaliers. As the Cavaliers jacked up three after three (10-38… from beyond the arc), it was, of course, the steady Lopez to put the final nail in the coffin.

This was an absolute team effort through and through. Win of the year Who would even oppose me if I called this one of the Nets’ best wins ever in Brooklyn?

Wait for it…

9:44 PM: The Nets win.

9:45 PM: So about that D-League logo…

Brook Lopez

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The stats: 22 PTS, 8-15 FG, 7 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL, 1 TOV

Earlier today, Tony Brown noted that he might start reducing the minutes of Lopez and Young in order to play the younger players down the stretch. Tonight, he took a backseat to Kilpatrick, Larkin, and McCullough (what universe are we in?) but quietly played a huge role in the Nets’s 10-point lead at halftime.

Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson were just simply not strong enough to stop the burly Lopez in the paint. Since the departure of Joe Johnson, the Nets have looked for a new playmaker and the center has responded in spades.

As always, the Nets used Lopez as a large pivot obstacle on the floor. Combined with the speedy Shane Larkin, they frequently eat the Cavaliers up at the elbow. Lopez had 6 assists against the Hornets and added another 5 tonight — did anybody see this form of him emerging?

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

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The stats: 10 PTS, 5-8 FG, 7 REB, 2 AST, 3 STL

I’ll keep it short and sweet for RHJ tonight:

He changes everything for the Nets.

Everything.

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