NEWARK (AP) – It hasn’t taken long for Mo Williams to adjust to a bigger scoring role for the Cleveland Cavaliers, which isn’t good news for the New Jersey Nets.
In the first game of a home-and-home series between the teams, the Cavaliers will try for their ninth straight win over the slumping Nets on Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.
Williams was expected to take on a heavier scoring load for Cleveland (3-3) in the wake of LeBron James’ departure. An All-Star in 2009, Williams was second on the Cavs behind James last season with 15.8 points and 5.3 assists per game.
He missed the team’s first three games with a groin injury and then came off the bench in a loss to Atlanta last Tuesday. However, Williams has provided a key boost since returning to the starting lineup, scoring 50 points to go along with 10 assists, seven rebounds and five steals in Cleveland’s last two games – both road wins.
Williams shot 10 of 19 from the field in a 107-102 victory at Washington on Saturday, scoring 10 of his 28 points in the final four minutes of a back-and-forth game. Daniel Gibson, who averaged 6.3 points last season, added 19 to improve his season average to 15.0 points and give him 39 in the last two games.
“You have two guys that can spread the floor, both guys can beat you off the dribble and both guys are very unselfish,” coach Byron Scott said of Williams and Gibson. “They look for their teammates and they’re both able to make big plays and big shots. It’s a luxury for me to be able to have those guys on the floor at the same time, especially in crunch time.”
Scott’s club will go for its third straight win Tuesday, and it may have forward Antawn Jamison back after he missed the last three games with a sore left knee.
Despite no longer having James, the Cavaliers will try to continue their domination of the Nets in the first of back-to-back games between the teams. They’ll meet again Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland has won eight straight in the series, including four consecutive wins on the road.
The Nets (2-4) are also trying to avoid a fifth straight loss overall. After a promising start, New Jersey’s offense has struggled in four consecutive defeats, averaging 85.0 points while shooting 40.4 percent. In their two victories, the Nets averaged 103.5 points on 50.4 percent shooting.
In their 101-89 loss to Miami on Saturday, the Nets trailed by four points at the half, but were outscored 32-17 in the third quarter. The night before against Orlando, they were outscored 32-16 coming out of the break en route to a 105-90 defeat.
“We’ve got to play better defense, take better care of the basketball and have better third quarters,” coach Avery Johnson said.
Against the Heat, Anthony Morrow scored 25 points and Brook Lopez added 12, but Lopez missed 10 of his last 12 shots. Lopez is leading the Nets in scoring with 18.8 points per game, but he’s averaging 13.0 over the last three games while shooting 28.0 percent. He’s also still looking for his first double-double after recording 33 last season.
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