CLEVELAND - No LeBron James equals no chance for the Cavaliers. No one, it seems, realizes this more than the rest of Cleveland`s players.
With their superstar sidelined for the third straight game due to a sprained left index finger, the talent-challenged Cavaliers fell 100-79 to the very average New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night at The Q.
Cleveland (9-10), which plays in Washington tonight, has now dropped four straight and is once again below .500. The Nets, who got a season-high 36 points from small forward Richard Jefferson, the man James would have guarded, evened their mark at 9-9.
"We as a team felt sorry for ourself," said angry Cavaliers coach Mike Brown. "Let`s hit somebody. Let`s show some grit as a team."
With a slim margin for error to begin with, the Cavaliers added to their own woes with poor execution on offense (34.6 percent shooting from the field), porous defense (the Nets hit 51.5 percent from the floor) and deficient rebounding (New Jersey had a 49-41 edge on the boards).
What really bothered Brown, however, was his team`s defeatist attitude throughout the game.
"I know for a fact we`ve won games without LeBron," Brown said. "I don`t know how many (Cleveland was 9-3 lifetime without James prior to his latest injury), but I know we`ve won. Tonight, we flat out gave in.
"I`m disappointed. Yes, we want to win basketball games, but it`s not about winning and losing. Tonight, we gave in as a team. -- It really hurts me. From here on out, when it gets tough, I want to see us fight, (player) one through 15."
Even that might not have been enough given the way the Cavaliers performed against the Nets, who also got 19 points and seven assists from shooting guard Vince Carter, 10 points and nine boards from power forward Malik Allen and seven points, 10 rebounds and six assists from point guard Jason Kidd, who didn`t play in the fourth quarter.
It all added up to New Jersey`s first double-digit win of the season.
Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, whose 1-of-6 shooting dropped him to 7-of-25 in three games without James, didn`t get to touch the ball nearly enough. Meanwhile, poor shooters like Eric Snow (0-of-3), Sasha Pavlovic (1-of-9) and Devin Brown (3-of-10) touched it way too much while running a useless weave above the 3-point arc.
That Shannon Brown, who got the starting nod in place of the injured James, and Dwayne Jones were often the best players in the home white uniforms was not necessarily good news.
Shannon Brown, who had 10 points in the first nine minutes, finished with a career-high 20 while also recording pro highs in field goals made (eight) and attempted (16), 3-pointers made (four) and attempted (seven), and assists (four).
Of course, the real reason he was on the floor for 37 minutes - two less than he had played the entire season - was the Cavaliers` desire to showcase him for a trade due to the impending arrival of big man Anderson Varejao.
Jones put up nine points and 12 boards, including a career-high eight on the offensive glass, while Daniel Gibson added 17 points, six rebounds and four assists. Power forward Drew Gooden had 14 points but only five boards.
The Nets, who also got 10 points off the bench from backup point guard Eddie Gill, seemed bored for most of the first half, which explains why they led just 47-43 at intermission. New Jersey, however, promptly came out and scored the first nine points of the third period and the game was basically over.
With Jefferson, who finished 11-of-18 from the field and 13-of-15 at the line, scoring 13 points in the period, the Nets led by 17 late in the third quarter. They were up by as many as 22 in the fourth, when the Cavaliers officially went down for the count.
"I want us to fight somebody," Mike Brown said. "It`s as simple as that."
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NETS 100, CAVALIERS 79
NEW JERSEY (100): Jefferson 11-18 13-15 36, Allen 5-7 0-0 10, Collins 2-6 3-4 7, Kidd 3-8 0-0 7, Carter 7-13 2-2 19, Nachbar 1-3 1-2 4, S.Williams 0-3 0-2 0, Boone 0-0 0-2 0, Gill 2-4 4-4 10, Magloire 3-4 1-4 7. Totals 34-66 24-35 100.
CLEVELAND (79): S.Brown 8-16 0-1 20, Gooden 6-16 2-2 14, Ilgauskas 1-6 6-6 8, Gibson 6-16 1-1 17, Pavlovic 1-9 0-0 2, Dw.Jones 3-4 3-4 9, D.Brown 3-10 2-3 8, Snow 0-3 1-2 1, Da.Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Nichols 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-81 15-19 79.
New Jersey 19 28 27 26 - 100
Cleveland 22 21 16 20 - 79
3-Point Goals - New Jersey 8-15 (Carter 3-5, Gill 2-3, Nachbar 1-2, Jefferson 1-2, Kidd 1-3), Cleveland 8-21 (S.Brown 4-7, Gibson 4-8, Gooden 0-1, Da.Jones 0-1, Pavlovic 0-2, D.Brown 0-2). Fouled Out - None. Rebounds - New Jersey 56 (Kidd 10), Cleveland 44 (Dw.Jones 12). Assists - New Jersey 26 (Carter 7), Cleveland 16 (S.Brown, Gibson 4). Total Fouls - New Jersey 14, Cleveland 23. Technicals - New Jersey defensive three second 3, Cleveland Coach Brown. A - 19,838 (20,562).
WHO: Cleveland at Washington
TIME: 7 o`clock
WHERE: Verizon Center
TV/RADIO: FSN Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM