Nets 104, Cavs 99
--I'm not going to spend a lot of time tonight because the wireless at the Izod Center is a huge joke. Like most things with the Nets and the Meadowlands complex, it is sub-standard. --The Cavs lost this game in the first quarter. They had a chance to survive it, but they lost that at the start of the third quarter when they gave up a 10-2 run. All the stuff that happened in the fourth -- the comeback that fell short -- is window dressing. The Cavs went to their small lineup and played junk ball and it worked in the short term. At the end, everybody got tired and there were silly mistakes that finished them. But that's what happens when you get down 19, you have to be perfect to come back. Sometimes it's not too late, tonight it was. When they finish with 46 or 47 wins this will be one of the games where they lost a chance at 50. --This is the 15th different starting lineup the Cavs have used this season, there are going to be consequences when that happens. Joe Smith and Delonte West have never played with Sasha Pavlovic. It showed, they covered the pick-and-roll and and rotated like they were running in sand. Anderson Varejao was simply terrible on defense in the first half and LeBron got caught on rotations. After the first quarter, the Cavs held the Nets to 41 percent shooting. But the first quarter counts, too. --I personally question whether Sasha is really ready. He's only had a couple practices, it's a very serious injury and he missed more than a quarter of the season. That is a lot to overcome, I think you may need more than two days of contact. --Let me say, the Nets played great, especially with their ball movement early. But down the stretch, they reverted to form. They are not a good team, though you saw Devin Harris' value late. He was 1-of-22 on 3-pointers on their five-game road trip so you knew he was probably due to make a couple. --Devin Brown and Damon Jones played excellent tonight. Devin shut down Vince Carter and Damon really held his own at the defensive end. He got beat a couple of times by Devin Brown, but you have to expect that. These two guys work hard, really are committed to running the offense, and are veterans. No way they should lose playing time, though they shouldn't play this much. Also, Wally Szczerbiak played well tonight. He missed some open jumpers, but he's been doing that. He had five assists and was good on defense when he was in there. Based on the way Sasha, Delonte and Joe Smith played, Wally was good tonight. --LeBron's attack to this game was top notch, he was relentless in going to the basket and it got him 21 free throws. He made just one 3-pointer and had 42 points, usually he's got to be hot from the outside to go for 40. --The Cavs and especially LeBron, who played a whopping 46 minutes tonight, expended a lot of energy in this loss. It'll probably show up tomorrow. --After the game in the locker room, Austin Carr when up and congratulated LeBron on passing him for second place on the Cavs scoring list. By next week, LeBron will probably pass Brad Daugherty to become the all-time leader. LeBron was very gracious and pleased that A.C. would come and personally give him the best wishes. LeBron's sense of history is remarkable, he really is a student of the game and, unlike some young players, he goes out of his way to pay respect to the elders. That's not a stroke job either, I've seen him do it many times and it is sincere on his behalf.
Cavs: Delonte West, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Joe Smith, Anderson Varejao Nets: Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Nenad Kristic, Josh Boone
Officials Dick Bavetta, Violet Palmer, Gary Zielinski.....I think this is just the first or second time the Cavs have had Bavetta this season. He likes to call charges.
--Yes, that is Sasha Pavlovic in the starting lineup. While this may seem crazy, taking a guy who hasn't played in 23 games and sticking him right in the fire, this actually sticks to Mike Brown form. With the exception of when LeBron came off the bench to protect Varejao from getting booed in December, Mike wants to know right away whether a guy is on his game or not. Which is why we've seen guys go from the inactive list to the starting lineup in the past. Of course, don't tell that to Devin Brown, who had been playing great and is now coming off the bench. --Second thing with the starters is that Ben Wallace is out with back pain. The injury report says he has back spasms, I think Mike slipped before the game and said he had a back strain. Maybe this is the same thing, but I think there is a difference. Anyway, the team sounded optimistic Ben would play yesterday and now they sound pessimistic about tomorrow in D.C. For what it is worth. Joe Smith is in there, which is the dynamic I think the Cavs need. A scorer and a defender in the post. Be it a Wallace/Zydrunas Ilgauskas pairing or Smith/Varejao or whatever. Either way, Dwayne Jones is going to have to play some minutes tonight and LeBron will have to play some at power forward I suspect. --The Nets are just back from a West Coast trip in which they went 0-5. They have been really struggling to score since trading Jason Kidd and Harris can't seem to buy a shot. But the Cavs have not played well here in the regular season over the last couple years. They are 0-2 against the Nets this season.
Halftime -- Nets 58, Cavs 47 --The Cavs were very lethargic at the outset of this game, a rather cocky attitude that they thought they were going to just show up an win. The Nets did make 14 of their 16 shots and they made a lot of jumpers, too. But most of those baskets came around the basket as Anderson Varejao especially was terrible. The Nets have 30 points in the paint at half, which is the real reason why they are ahead. --There was a bit of a comeback in the second quarter when the Cavs were more active and not some defensive stops. But they again got a little loose late with the defense. The Nets are not a good offensive team and they will miss lots of jumpers if you give them the chance. But they have 19 assists in the half because they are just throwing it in the paint and getting hoops. --That said, the Cavs offensive has been pretty strong. They had assists on their first 13 baskets and there's lots of driving to get fouls, especially from LeBron, who is being very aggressive on that end of the floor. If that continues they will have a chance to win this game, but it will be predicated on whether they can get stops. --Sasha played six very average minutes before being pulled, missing two wide open jumpers. Maybe as a result both Devin Brown and Wally Szczerbiak played well of the bench. Sasha's leash will probably shorter in the second half.