After tough loss in Cleveland, Nets return home

College teammates Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (left) and Stanley Johnson meet for the first time in the NBA. (AP)
College teammates Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (left) and Stanley Johnson meet for the first time in the NBA. (AP)

Another Nets game, another disappointing loss. This time it was the great LeBron James doing the Nets in with a game-winning floater with just a second left, propelling the Cavaliers to a 90-88 victory Saturday night in Cleveland. Unlike many of their previous losses, the Nets battled for 48 minutes but just could not sink enough shots or benefit from some questionable officiating down the stretch.

There were positives. Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young more than held their own against the Cavaliers’ active frontline, combining for 38 points and 21 rebounds. Jarrett Jack dished out a season-high 14 assists. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson continued to showcase his athleticism on both ends of the floor, scratching out his second five-steal game this week to go along with his six points and 10 rebounds.

The individual performances and strong stretches are encouraging, but for the veterans on this team, results matter more. The Nets are now 3-13, but Coach Hollins isn’t ready to re-invent the wheel just yet.

“We are who we are,” Hollins relayed pregame. “and if we go out and play together as a team and work as a group and try to be disciplined in what we’re doing, we give ourselves a chance. That’s all you can do. If you’re not good enough to win those games, because of the other team’s talent, you’ve still done all you can do and you just go home and go to bed.”

Hopefully for the Nets’ sake, a little home cooking can turn things around in the win column. Starting tonight against the Detroit Pistons (8-8), the Nets will play eight of their next nine games at Barclays Center. Ten road losses against mostly playoff teams have dug an early hole, but the season is young.

The Pistons, now in their second season under Head Coach Stan Van Gundy, have cooled off after starting the season 5-1. They’ve lost three of their last four, including a 103-87 defeat in Oklahoma City on Friday night. Center Andre Drummond, averaging an absurd 17.1 rebounds a game, was held to single digits in rebounds for the first time this season with seven. The fourth-year 22-year-old out of UConn has already notched a 29-rebound and 27-rebound game this season.

In a 110-105 loss in Brooklyn on December 21 of last season, Drummond did just that, pulling down 20 rebounds against the Nets (13 offensive). Drummond’s whopping 877 offensive rebounds the past two seasons is also the most by any player since Dennis Rodman grabbed 890 in two seasons from 1991 to 1993. He’s 22! Considering the Pistons 41.3 percent field goal percentage this season, Drummond’s nose for the boards is invaluable.

As for the supporting cast, point guard Reggie Jackson leads the team in scoring at 19.1 points per game. Marcus Morris, acquired in the offseason to his chagrin, has played a career-high 36.8 minutes this season in a starting role but has struggled shooting the ball at 38.8 percent. Former Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova is also off to a slow start with his new team averaging just 9.6 points and 3.6 rebounds.

What to watch for: Two talented young ‘Cats. Last season, Nets swingman Rondae-Hollis Jefferson and Pistons forward Stanley Johnson were leading the fifth ranked Arizona Wildcats to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. Tonight, the two promising and uber-athletic talents will butt heads for the first time in what should be be the first of many matchups in their young careers. The 19-year-old Johnson, the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft, scored 20 points in just his seventh NBA game against Golden State on November 9. He is averaging 7.8 points in 20.4 minutes this season. Hollis-Jefferson, as Nets fans are finding out, is making his mark in hurry.

Tip-off is at 6:00 P.M. EDT at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.