James, Cavaliers End Netsí Winning Streak
Cleveland 108, New Jersey 102
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., April 8 (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Nets appeared on the verge of a franchise-record 15-game winning streak before LeBron James seized control.
James scored 18 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter and delivered several big plays down the stretch to lift the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 108-102 triumph over the Nets.
New Jersey, which had won 14 straight games overall and nine in a row at home, held a 101-96 lead after a spinning layup by Vince Carter with 1:15 to play. Drew Gooden made two free throws after a nifty pass by James seven seconds later and James tied the game with a three-point play with 51 seconds left, converting a tough left-handed scoop on a fast break after a turnover by Carter.
"I knew I was going to get fouled," James said. "Once I turned on the speed burst and went around Cliff (Robinson), I knew guys were going to come behind me. And I was getting hit all over the place and I wanted to just try and get the ball up on the rim. I was able to do that."
"It was an MVP play and performance on his part," said Nets guard Jason Kidd, who had his hand on the ball before James muscled through for his basket.
Carter twice missed a pair of jumpers, the latter after an offensive rebound by Robinson, and Nets center Nenad Krstic was whistled for a questionable foul attempting to grab the rebound of the second miss. Anderson Varejao sank two free throws for a 103-101 Cleveland edge with 30 seconds left.
Varejao was making his third career start and played in place of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has a sprained left ankle. The second-year center from Brazil finished with 11 points and five rebounds.
"I felt comfortable at the time I made the free throws," Varejao said. "I am happy now - now it's time to celebrate."
Carter, who scored 33 points, was fouled six seconds later but misfired on his second attempt. After James made two free throws for a 105-102 lead with 21 seconds to go, Carter grazed the rim on a 28-footer off the ensuing inbounds play.
"I play to win, and I had the opportunity to win twice and I blew it," Carter said. "I hate that I missed that free throw that ended our streak."
"I don't know what they had drawn up," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "Vince's range is unlimited and I thought he had a decent look. He was just short."
Nets coach Lawrence Frank defended Carter.
"I live and die with Vince Carter," Frank said. "If he felt he was open on the shot, then I support him."
James, who was 12-of-26 from the floor as Cleveland shot 54 percent (38-of-70), split a pair from the line with 16 seconds remaining to ice the contest.
"I don't play 1-on-1 basketball and try to upstage Vince Carter or try to upstage anyone," James said. "It's all about the team."
"LeBron James was LeBron James; he is truly an amazing player," Brown said. "In my opinion, there are a lot of great players out there, but without him we'd be in trouble. So in my opinion, he's an MVP."
The Nets shot 48 percent (38-of-80) from the floor and made 20 of their first 23 free-throw attempts prior to Carter's costly final miss. Richard Jefferson tacked on 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Kidd had 11, seven and 10 assists.
Only four players got to the line for New Jersey. Cleveland made 29 of its 41 attempts.
"When the opposing team comes in and almost doubles you on the free-throw line, it's tough because now you have guys in foul trouble and they're kind of controlling the momentum," Jefferson said.
Cleveland is virtually assured of the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Nets have clinched the Atlantic Division and are trying to catch the Miami Heat for the second seed. Both teams have 46 wins.
"(Winning 50 games) is a big goal," Cleveland guard Larry Hughes said. "We feel like that's the mark we want to get to. We feel like if we get to 50 wins, we had a good season. And then the second season starts."