Nets looking to bounce back vs. improving Cavs
For the last two months, the Brooklyn Nets have drawn notice in a positive light due to their turnaround and emergence into the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Even with a solid last two months, recent results show the Nets are slightly staggering toward the All-Star break.
They hope to head into the break with a winning record Wednesday night when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers, who entered Tuesday with the NBA's third-worst record (12-45).
Brooklyn (29-29) hasn't been above .500 at the All-Star break since 2012-13, when it was 31-22, which was the only time since 2005-06.
After watching Paul George hit a game-winning jumper and the Oklahoma City Thunder rally from a 23-point deficit on Dec. 5, the Nets were 8-18. They are 21-11 since, but since winning six in a row from Jan. 14-25, they've lost six of eight, including four straight road losses.
One of Brooklyn's worst performances since its turnaround came in Friday's 125-106 home loss to the Chicago Bulls. The Nets followed it up with a difficult 127-125 loss in Toronto on Monday in a game that was decided by Kawhi Leonard's bank jumper with 4.4 seconds remaining.
"I just want to keep building on this game," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "Sure we want to go into the break with positive momentum, but I want to play another high-level game. That doesn't always guarantee success in this league as you know, but I really liked our rhythm tonight. We had good chemistry. Everybody played well."
The Nets continue to get stellar performances from All-Star D'Angelo Russell, who totaled 28 points and a career-high 14 assists Monday. Russell also had seven rebounds but missed the game-winning 3-point attempt as time expired.
Russell has seven double-doubles and is averaging 21.6 points and 7.4 assists since the turnaround began.
Joe Harris added 24 and Allen Crabbe contributed 22 in his third game back from missing 26 contests due to a right knee injury, giving the Nets depth as they attempt to snap out of an eight-game stretch where they have shot just 42.6 percent.
"I think you have to bring in the same mindset," Harris said.
"I think we came in extremely locked in today, focused on the personnel, knowing what we need to do to have success. We have to bring that same approach to Cleveland -- regardless of record we are clearly aware that any team is capable of beating anyone. We learned that the other night against Chicago. Just because a team might have 10, 11 wins doesn't mean anything."
Cleveland will be trying to win consecutive games for the third time this season. The Cavaliers also won consecutive games Nov. 23-24 and Jan. 27-29.
Cleveland has won three of its last seven since losing 18 of 19 from Dec. 19-Jan. 25. The Cavaliers halted a four-game losing streak Monday night by holding on for a 107-104 victory over the New York Knicks.
Rookie Collin Sexton scored 20 points against New York, while Larry Nance Jr and Jordan Clarkson added 15 apiece. Kevin Love played 16 minutes in the first half in his second game back from foot surgery and finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Love, however, won't play Wednesday night in the team's final game before the All-Star break. Cleveland is being cautious with Love and can give him a rest until playing again next Thursday against the visiting Phoenix Suns.
"I think he looks great," Cleveland coach Larry Drew said. "He's doing some things that we've really missed over his absence. He seems to be playing with a pretty good rhythm. More than I had anticipated him coming back this early just in two games."
The teams split a pair of meetings earlier this season, with Brooklyn getting a 102-86 win in Cleveland on Oct. 24, and Alec Burks dunking the game-winning basket in Cleveland's 99-97 win in Brooklyn on Dec. 3. Since the last meeting, three players (Burks, Rodney Hood and George Hill) who appeared for Cleveland have been traded.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 13, 2019