Try as they might -- and they did -- the Brooklyn Nets could simply not stop the Cleveland Cavaliers at crunch time and as a result, suffered their 10th consecutive loss at Quicken Loans Arena, 129-123, on Tuesday night.
A traditional three-point play by Cleveland's RodneyHood with 40.2 seconds to play put the Cavaliers ahead for good, 123-121.
LeBron James' 12th triple-double of the season (31 points, 12 boards, 11 dimes) -- one off his career single-season high -- 26 points from point guard George Hill and 18 points off the bench by Kyle Korver led Cleveland (36-24), which made a dozen 3-pointers in 24 attempts, to the victory.
“We never found a solution to stop them,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “It’s tough. George Hill and LeBron, obviously, had great games. But I think we’re happy with the way we competed. We got a win [Monday] night (against visiting Chicago). Tonight, we had an opportunity to win and couldn’t close the deal.”
D'Angelo Russell led seven Brooklyn players in double figures with 25 points. Caris LeVert (18) and Spencer Dinwiddie had (11 points, 11 assists) also reached double figures for Brooklyn (20-42), which shot a red-hot 53.7 percent to keep the game tight.
Atkinson thought Jarrett Allen defended pretty much as well as it could have been done against Hood’s crucial three-point play.
“I thought Jarrett did a great job on his closeout with Hood, kept him in front and then Hood makes a heck of a shot," he said. "I wish he didn’t foul him, but that’s what we’re learning.”
The Nets, who owe Cleveland's their 2018 first-round draft pick, which Cleveland acquired from Boston on Aug. 22, were boosted Tuesday night with LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson returning to the lineup from injuries. Hollis-Jefferson had 14 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s good to see, but we want to come out and win those games," LeVert said. "We’re not really into moral victories.
“We know we’re getting better. But we’d like to see it in the win-loss column.”
“They made a couple more plays and they pushed through and got the better end of it,” Hollis-Jefferson said.
For his part, Atkinson is feeling upbeat about his group.
“I feel with this group here being healthy now, we’re going to keep getting better,” Atkinson said. “ We want to finish the rest of this season on an upswing. Now, we’ve got a tough West Coast trip coming up, but I do feel good about the direction we’re going right now.”