January, 4, 2014
BROOKLYN—The Cleveland Cavaliers were the first team to puncture the Brooklyn Nets belief of what they could be this season.
The 98-94 loss in the season-opener on Oct. 30, in Cleveland wasn’t the big cause for concern. The fact that the Cavs outrebounded the Nets, 48-37, and outscored them, 34-30, in the paint was alarming.
Perhaps, after Saturday night’s 89-82 get-even win against the Cavs in Barclays Center, the process of rebuilding the Nets' belief in themselves took a giant step forward. For just the second time this season the Nets won two straight, doing it again with a small-ball lineup.
In what has become an early season of must-wins, the Nets followed their thrilling 95-93 comeback win in Oklahoma City on Thursday night, with a victory over Cleveland. The Cavs were without star guard Kyrie Irving, who is day-to-day with a left knee injury.
The Nets (12-21) have no compassion for teams with injury woes. No team has been hit with more injuries than the Nets, who announced before the game that star center Brook Lopez underwent successful foot surgery earlier in the day.
Coach Jason Kidd used his 15th different starting lineup of the season, giving Kevin Garnett the night off and going with Reggie Evans at center. The moved paid dividends as Evans scored a season-high eight points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.
Paul Pierce, in his new role at power forward, was once again terrific, scoring 17 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and blocking three shots. Pierce surpassed former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson for 19th place on the NBA career scoring list.
The Cavs (11-22) were led by former Syracuse star Dion Waiters, who had 26 points. The Nets also got 12 from Andray Blatche, who returned after missing four games due to personal reasons, and 21 from Deron Williams.
The Cavs were better on the boards (45-33) but the Nets were better in the paint (36-28). The small-ball lineup, which features Williams and Shaun Livingston in the backcourt, was very efficient, getting 30 field goals off 24 assists.
The Nets built a 51-38 but were almost done in by another wretched third quarter. The Cavs outscored the Nets 27-16 in the third. But the Nets buckled down and pulled away in the fourth.
NOTES: The Nets announced that Lopez had successful surgery on his right foot. Lopez fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot for the third time. In an effort to prevent the injury from reoccurring, doctors also repositioned the first metatarsal to better proportion the weight bearing in Lopez’s right foot.
Lopez, who was injured during the Dec. 20 game at Philadelphia, was averaging a team-high 20.7 points along with 6.0 rebounds and 1.76 blocks through 17 games played this season.
"With this procedure, we both fixed the broken bone (fifth metatarsal) in Brook's right foot and repositioned another bone, so that his sole of his foot will bear weight more evenly than before," said Nets team medical director Dr. Riley Williams III. "The repositioning portion of the surgery lessens the stress on the fractured bone, and decreases the likelihood of re-injury in the future."