CLEVELAND — The Brooklyn Nets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, 125-117. Here’s what you need to know:
- It is Brooklyn’s ninth straight win and 13th victory in the last 14 games. This is the franchise’s longest winning streak since moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn.
- The win lifts the Nets into third place in the East, and came on the heels of a convincing win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, not to mention those 91 first-half points the game before against the defending-champion Warriors.
- Kevin Durant continued his torrid play with 32 points, nine boards and five assists, and passed both Tim Duncan (26,496 points) for 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, and Kobe Bryant (1,827 3-pointers) for 21st all-time in 3s. But he fouled out with 1:54 to go and the Nets held a 121-111 advantage.
There must be something wrong with the Brooklyn Nets because right now, there’s nothing wrong with the Brooklyn Nets.
All they do lately is win, which for them, is a departure from the seemingly endless line of drama and self-destruction.
“When we step into the gym every single day it’s about basketball,” the Nets’ new coach Jacque Vaughn said. “How we’re going to take care of each other on the floor, cover for each other on the floor, it’s about basketball.”
A bland script for a franchise that nearly broke apart over the summer because Durant wanted out, had to fire coach Steve Nash to save a season in flames, and endured another stunning controversy caused by Kyrie Irving, to say nothing of Ben Simmons’ slow start.
But it’s working now. Vaughn took over the Nets on Nov. 1. They are the best team in the NBA since, at 20-7.
“I’m not saying we didn’t struggle, but we always were focused on playing basketball,” Durant said. “I think the other people were trying to look for stuff to put on our team, label, our team, whatever. I know the Kyrie stuff (is) maybe what you’re talking about, but I felt like we’ve always been about the game, all of us.”
Durant and Vaughn said the Nets run a simpler, scaled down offense and defense – and perhaps that was the main change made when Vaughn took over.
“I am a simple person and really tried to keep things simple,” Vaughn said. “I really tried to stress what would keep things simple for our team.”
Irving, Simmons step up
Irving, playing against the franchise that drafted him on the 11th anniversary of his pro debut, was electric with 32 points on 7-of-11 shooting from 3-point range. There were some cheers mixed in with a chorus of boos when Irving was introduced. He hit the game-winning shot for the Cavs in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, but forced a trade just one year later and has been engulfed in a series of personal controversies since – most recently his suspension for promoting a film containing anti-semitic material.
“I don’t take this moment that I’m at right now for granted because it took all those times for me to go through being here in Cleveland in order to achieve something special,” Irving said. “I’m on a journey to do that with this team here in Brooklyn. So Cleveland’s never in the rearview, but it is definitely something I look back to remember what it takes to be a champion and how many years I had to endure all the shit talking, all the times of just dealing with all of this, you know what I mean? What comes with it, and people doubting me and that’s what makes me great, is just continuing to focus on what I do best.”
Simmons, their third enigmatic star who was off to a terrible start following a year off from basketball, dominated with his size and defensive prowess on Monday, contributing nine boards, a block, and three steals to go with eight assists.
T.J. Warren, who didn’t start playing until Dec. 2 after missing nearly two years from foot surgery, set a season high with 23 points off the bench.
Evaluating the Cavaliers’ performance
The Cavs, who entered play with the league’s top-rated defense and best home record, were buoyed by a huge night from Darius Garland (46 points, eight assists). Trailing by as many as 19 in the second half, Cleveland cut it to four points on Garland’s bucket with 44 seconds left.
Donovan Mitchell, who is enjoying the best season of his career, suffered an off night with 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
“Donovan Mitchell is the key to this change for this team and is this the reason why you look at them as contenders at this point,” Durant said of the Cavs. “He’s just such a dynamic player since the moment he stepped into the league. He’s the reason why things change.”
What they’re saying
“From the outside looking in, it just appears that basketball is the main thing,” Cavs coach J.B.Bickerstaff said, in opining about the Nets. “You’re hearing less noise about other things and it seems like every conversation is about basketball now. When you have players the caliber of Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving, if basketball is the main thing, they’re going to be very difficult to beat and they’re going to be extremely competitive. That’s what it seems like has been happening.”
Durant spoke after the game on passing Duncan.
“In my career, to be able to pass the all-time great legend, like, somebody who shifted and changed the game, it’s something I’m gonna call my folks about tonight and talk over and just reminisce.”
Irving on whether this Nets’ run is sustainable:
“I’m just trying to be present, and enjoy what we have in front of us,” Irving said. “Anytime I’ve tried to compare, try to foreshadow the future or plan the future, it never goes in my favor. So I’m just going to be as present as possible.”
(Photo: Ken Blaze / USA Today)
View more on Youtube UNDISPUTED – Skip and Shannon react to Nets defeat Cavaliers to win 9 straight game
UNDISPUTED – Skip and Shannon react to Nets defeat Cavaliers to win 9 straight game