CLEVELAND – For the second straight game, the Nets themselves dug a double-digit hole. And for the second straight game, this time they clawed back claws for a 117-112 win over the Cavaliers on Monday night at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
The Nets (13-5) erased a 12-point third-quarter deficit, going into the fourth to turn a 76-64 hole into a two-point edge with a 20-6 run.
Kevin Durant – after missing Friday’s win to rest his sore shoulder – returned with 27 points, nine assists and six rebounds. He hit just 8-19 when James Harden scored just 14 points but added a season-high 14 assists.
But for the change, Brooklyn’s Big 2 offensive end helped.
Center LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points on 11-for-14 shooting, catching 11 boards and dealing with ex-net Jarrett Allen. Blake Griffin logged just nine minutes, benching Aldridge’s favor.
The most unexpected lift came from rookie Cam Thomas, who had 11 points in a 20-6 run that regained the Nets. This was their first double-digit show and could not have come at a better time.
Allen – trading in the Harden contract – had 20 points and 15 rebounds.
The Nets immediately surrendered a 15-5 run after DeAndre Bembry’s layup on Durant’s feed within two minutes took a 6-4 edge.
Ricky Rubio – In the midst of a revival of points, posted career highs in points, attempts and 3-point percentage – closed the Cleveland race with a driving layup. Brooklyn trailed 19-11 and didn’t face a serious challenge until the second half.
Brooklyn gave up another run, with a 46-43 setback after a Javon Carter 3-pointer with 5:27 left in the half. Once again, Rubio polished it.
Rubio’s 3-pointer closed out Cleveland’s 9-2 spurt, leaving the Nets 55-45 with three minutes left in the half.
The Nets trailed by 11 at the break, with young Cavs forward Dean Wade better defending Durant. And when Garland (24 points and 11 assists) cracked in the head, briefly departed, they trailed 73-64 with 6:55 left in the third.
It was 80-71 before he finally managed to conquer some momentum. And, shockingly, Thomas hit it off for them.
Thomas personally tied the game with a 9-0 run. His baseline floater then jumped from 84-82 to fourth.
“We know that. We know he’s a scorer,” Bembry said of Thomas.
This is the latest example of halftime adjustments – even if they are occasionally just attitude adjustments – working for the Nets. They outscored the Cavs 32-19 in the third quarter, the fifth-best in their plus-52 league in the third.
The rest of the evening was tied 98 for 5:39, and Allen’s thunderous dunk from Garland boosted Cleveland to 103-102.
Garland’s 17-foot jumper followed the Nets with three. But the Nets went on a 7-0 run to take the lead.
Durant knife through the lane to put Brooklyn up 106-105 at 2:51. And after he forced a Rubio turnover, Patty Mills drilled a 3-pointer to the four-point edge with 2:13 remaining.
A slick Durant feed cutting James Johnson opened the game with a 1:08 for an 113-108 lead. From there, the Nets took off.