EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New Jersey Nets didn't have an
answer for LeBron James in the fourth quarter, and now they won't
have to answer any more questions about their NBA-best winning
James scored 18 of his 37 points in the final 12 minutes
Saturday to lead Cleveland to a 108-102 victory, ending New
Jersey's 14-game winning streak and leaving the Nets one win shy of
a franchise record.
James' effort came one game after he scored 21 fourth-quarter
points against the New York Knicks in a losing effort Wednesday.
This time, the Cavaliers ensured their 10th win in their last 11
games by scoring 12 of the game's final 13 points after New Jersey
took a 101-96 lead.
The tying points came on a vintage James move as he drove the
lane on a fast break with two players hacking at his arms yet
somehow managed to spin the ball off the glass. The three-point
play tied the game at 101 with 50 seconds left.
"By far, this is our biggest win of the year, especially the
way we played down the stretch," James said. "We won a big game
on the road. It was all about stops and making plays down the
stretch. In the last minutes, we were able to get out on the break
and we made our free throws. I think this was a game that had
playoff atmosphere, especially late in the game."
New Jersey was trying to become the first team since the Los
Angeles Lakers in 1999-00 to win at least 15 games in a row. The
Lakers won 19 from Feb. 4 through March 13, 2000.
Vince Carter, who was the Nets' late-game closer in many of
their wins during the run, scored 33 points for New Jersey but
missed three jumpers and a foul shot in the final minute.
The free throw may have hurt the most. Carter was fouled with
the Nets trailing 103-101 and missed his second free throw to leave
New Jersey trailing by a point. James hit two free throws to extend
the lead to 105-102. Carter got free at the top of the key for a
3-pointer on New Jersey's next possession but missed badly.
He had nothing but praise afterward for James, who remained in
the game despite picking up his fifth foul with 3:55 left.
"He's a great player," said Carter. "He shares the ball for
3½ quarters and in the last six minutes he turns it up. He's
Five Cavaliers scored in double figures including reserve Larry
Hughes, who scored 15 in his third game back since missing 45 games
with a fractured finger. Richard Jefferson added 20 points and 10
rebounds for the Nets.
New Jersey missed a chance to gain on Miami for the No. 2 spot
in the Eastern Conference playoff race, falling three games behind
the Heat. Miami faces Washington on Saturday night in a game that
also has playoff ramifications for Cleveland: a Miami win will
clinch home-court advantage for the Cavaliers for the first round
of the playoffs.
Nets players insisted they hadn't paid too much attention to the
streak except when it was brought up to them. Now, they can
concentrate fully on preparing for the playoffs.
"It had to come to an end, sooner or later," said New Jersey's
Clifford Robinson, who scored 14 points in a reserve. "It's time
for us to bounce back and play hard against two potential playoff
opponents (Milwaukee and Chicago) on the road. We have to be at our
best once again."
New Jersey won 14 consecutive games in the 2003-2004
season, 13 of which came after current coach Lawrence Frank took
over for Byron Scott. ... Cavaliers C Zydrunas Ilgauskas missed his
second game with a left ankle sprain. ... Robinson's second
3-pointer in the first half moved him past Chuck Person for 18th
place on the NBA's all-time list with 1,221. Jason Kidd made one to
tie Latrell Sprewell for 27th place with 1,105. ... Carter extended
his club record of scoring at least 20 points to 20 consecutive
games. His personal record is 23, set twice while he was with
Toronto. ... The Cavaliers, who average 28 free throws a game, shot
22 in the first half and 41 in the game. ... New Jersey gave up
more than 90 points for just the fourth time since the winning
streak began on March 12.