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Friday, April 13, 2007

Cavaliers Blast Listless Nets, 94-76

The Cleveland Cavaliers outscored the New Jersey Nets 58-44 in the second half, turning a close game into a rout on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena. LeBron James had 35 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Larry Hughes produced 19 points and six assists while not committing a turnover. Vince Carter scored 26 points on 10-18 shooting for the Nets, but the rest of his team shot just 18-49 (.367) from the field. Jason Kidd nearly had a triple double (eight points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) but he made just two of his nine field goal attempts; Richard Jefferson was even worse: 2-13 from the field, including several missed dunks and layups. The Nets built an 18-12 first quarter lead--their biggest of the game--but the Cavaliers closed the period with an 8-1 run. Both teams spent most of the first half bricking shots from all angles and turning the ball over. It looked like they were rounding into form--not playoff form, but preseason form.

At halftime, TNT's Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith both said that it was "frustrating" to watch Carter and James--especially James. Both players are too talented, they emphasized, to settle for long shots and fadeaway jumpers that let the defense off of the hook; they must drive to the hoop and/or post up. James definitely seemed to get the message, whether he heard it on TV or from his own coaching staff. He posted up and drove to the hoop repeatedly in the third quarter, netting three three-point plays and scoring 15 points as Cleveland outscored New Jersey 36-19. The Cavaliers shot 14-17 from the field in the period and that was, for all intents and purposes, game, set and match: the Cavaliers pushed the margin to as much as 22 in the fourth quarter and never again let the Nets get closer than 14 points.

This game was very important for both teams. The Cavaliers are trying to wrest the second seed in the East from the Chicago Bulls and if they are not able to do so then they will fall to fifth (thanks to the NBA's wacky playoff format) and likely face the defending champion Miami Heat in the first round. The Nets still have not clinched a playoff berth, so it is obvious that every game is crucial for them. They showed so much promise last year, beating the Heat in Miami in the first game of their playoff series but then Jefferson got hurt, key reserve Cliff Robinson got suspended and, in many ways, the team has not been the same since then. They got off to a slow start this season and the season-ending knee injury to Nenad Krstic basically eliminated any chance that they could be a legitimate contender.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:34 AM

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