CLEVELAND (AP) — The New Jersey Nets came into town battling illness and injuries.
The Nets headed home with consecutive wins for the first time this season.
Deron Williams scored 27 points and New Jersey held off a late Cleveland rally for a 99-96 victory on Friday night.
New Jersey coach Avery Johnson wasn’t sure who would be available until about an hour before game-time. Forward Kris Humphries missed Friday morning’s shoot-around with the stomach flu, but was in the starting lineup and scored 18 points with 11 rebounds in 33 minutes. The Nets played without center Mehmet Okur (back injury) and guard MarShon Brooks (strained Achilles), but New Jersey led from wire-to-wire despite dressing only 10 players.
“We didn’t know if Kris would be available, but he came out and battled through it,” Williams said. “He’s a warrior. It’s definitely a good win without those guys and Kris being sick.”
“Our guys played hard and they came out with a lot of focus,” Johnson said. “We set the tone for this game in the first quarter. Kris is a hard-hat guy. He’s earned a day off (Saturday). We got him hydrated the best we could, and he gave us all he had.”
The Nets, who defeated Philadelphia in overtime on Wednesday, also completed their first winning road trip with a 2-1 record.
Rookie point guard Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 32 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter, for Cleveland. The Cavaliers have lost five of six and their latest defeat left coach Byron Scott in a cranky mood.
“I don’t know if guys thought we’ve arrived or we can’t stand prosperity,” he said. “We lost the game, period. They played harder than we did for a longer period of time than we did. We got what we deserved. We waited until there was seven minutes left in the game to play harder.”
New Jersey built a 16-point lead in the third quarter and was comfortably ahead throughout most of the fourth quarter until the Cavaliers rallied. Cleveland cut the deficit to eight points with 1:57 remaining. Irving hit a 3-pointer and a layup before Anderson Varejao’s jumper with 16.5 seconds left cut the lead to 97-93, but Anthony Morrow hit two free throws a second later. Irving hit at 3-pointer at the buzzer to cap the best scoring performance of his brief career for the first overall pick in the draft.
“I would trade a performance like this for a win any day,” said Irving, who scored 17 points in the final 3 minutes.
Williams is averaging 24 points and 10.3 assists in his last four games, in which the Nets are 3-1. He’s recorded double-doubles in each game.
“My teammates have told me I have to score for us to be successful,” he said. “I’ve been trying to do that early. I got some good looks.”
Williams thinks there are better days ahead for the Nets, whose five road wins match their total for all of last season.
“We wanted a winning streak bad,” he said. “Aside from that last couple of minutes of the game, we played really good basketball.”
Scott thought Williams taught Irving a valuable lesson.
“When Deron sees a rookie point guard, he’s gonna go at his throat,” Scott said.
“We gave this game away,” Irving said. “We were lacking a lot of energy tonight. We came out flat.”
LeBron James holds the franchise for points with 24, which he did three times.
Humphires said following the game his stomach still hurt, but he didn’t play like someone who was ill.
“I didn’t feel 100 percent,” Humphires said. “I came into the arena and found out Mehmet was out and knew I was playing for sure. I was going to give it a try regardless. There are no excuses. We play a game. It’s the best job in the world.”
Morrow added 22 points for New Jersey, which last won back-to-back games on March 11-14, 2011.
Antawn Jamison scored 20 points while Ramon Sessions added 11.
NOTES: Johnson said Okur will have an MRI on Saturday. Okur missed two games earlier in the season because of back spasms. … Brooks missed his third straight game and Johnson said he will have a further medical examination Saturday. Brooks might play in Sunday’s home game against Toronto. Brooks is the NBA’s second-leading scorer among rookies, trailing only Irving. … Cavaliers F Tristan Thompson, the fourth overall pick in the draft, played after missing the last two games with a sprained left ankle. He scored five points in 16 minutes. … Cleveland plays at Boston on Sunday and hosts the Celtics on Tuesday.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)