James Harden, Nets hold off ailing Cavaliers

Denis P. Gorman
The Associated Press
Cleveland Cavaliers' Ricky Rubio (3), of Spain, protects the ball from Brooklyn Nets' Kevin Durant (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021 in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK — James Harden scored 27 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 and Kevin Durant 23 to help the Brooklyn Nets beat the short-handed Cavaliers 109-99 on Wednesday.

Patty Mills added 21 points to give the Nets (11-5) four 20-point scorers for the first time this season. The Nets won for the eighth time in 10 games.

“The good thing is we [came] away with the win,” Harden said. “We just [have] to keep improving. No excuses.”

Ricky Rubio led the Cavs (9-7) with 25 points, Darius Garland added 24 and Kevin Love, Cedi Osman, and Dean Wade each had 11. 

“In the second half we collectively competed a lot better than we did in the first half,” Love said. “We gave ourselves a chance.”

Cavaliers Kevin Love (0) scored 11 points in his first game back from the COVID-19 injured list during a 109-99 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. [Frank Franklin II/Associated Press]

The Cavs played without center Jarrett Allen (illness), guard Collin Sexton (torn left meniscus), and forwards Evan Mobley (sprained right elbow), Lauri Markkanen (conditioning) and Lamar Stevens (sprained right ankle).

The Nets led 62-41 at the half, with Durant scoring 19 points and Harden 16. The Cavs outscored the Nets 32-19 in the third to cut it to 81-73.

“The second half we just had a meltdown,” Harden said. “They capitalized. They made shots. We got fortunate they missed a lot of open shots in the first half. The second half they made a lot of them.”

The Nets twice pushed the lead to 13 in the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers outscored the Nets 8-2 in a 2:05 stretch to close to 96-89 with 4:43 left. The Nets finished the game by outscoring the Cavs 13-10.

“We definitely as you mentioned and [coach JB Bickerstaff] mentioned were throwing the punches rather than just [absorbing punches]," was how Love analyzed the difference between the first and second halves for the Cavs. “Shooting the ball with confidence and getting into the lane much better. There was so much we did better in the second half [and] really started to make [the Nets] feel us."

Love played in his first game after clearing COVID-19 protocols. He said he experienced “crazy muscle aches, sensitive skin, can't smell [or] taste...muscle spasms, fatigue and chest and head got hit pretty tough as well.”

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, center, reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021 in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Up next

Cavaliers: Host Golden State on Thursday night.

Nets: Host Orlando on Friday night.

Nets at Cavaliers

Time: 7 p.m. Monday

TV: Bally Sports Ohio