for this game

Cavaliers control boards, Nets in series opener

May 6, 2007 - 9:21 PM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- The Cleveland Cavaliers and New Jersey Nets made plenty of rebounds available. Drew Gooden made the most of them.

Gooden had 14 points and 14 rebounds, helping the cold-shooting Cavaliers cash in on second chances and hold on for an 81-77 victory over the Nets in their Eastern Conference semifinal series opener.

LeBron James had 21 points, 11 boards and seven assists for second-seeded Cleveland, which remained unbeaten in the postseason despite shooting just 40 percent (35-of-87) from the field. Battling a cold, James made just 8-of-21 shots.

"It's the playoffs, you have to battle through it," James said. "No matter what it took, I was going to be out on the court helping my teammates get a win."

The Cavaliers were playing for the first time in six days and appeared to be ripe to be upset by the Nets, who are in the conference semifinals for the fifth time in six years. But they chased their misses well, grabbing 20 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-chance points.

"When you shoot 40 percent, there are a lot of rebounds to get," Cavaliers guard Larry Hughes said. "We were able to get them and give ourselves another chance to put the ball in the bucket."

Leading the way was Gooden, who sparked a flurry midway through the fourth quarter that was enough to carry Cleveland to its fifth straight playoff victory.

"A key for the bigs was to rebound the ball and dominate the glass like we did in the regular season," Gooden said. "It's carrying over game to game. It's a team effort." After a follow shot by Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who also swept 14 boards, pulled the Cavs into a 67-67 tie with 8:39 to go, Gooden threw in a pair of hooks, the latter off an offensive rebound.

Less than a minute later, Gooden tracked down an offensive rebound and found Hughes for a 3-pointer and a 74-69 lead with 4:43 to play.

"It was obviously a huge thing, 20 offensive rebounds," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "Some of that is because of the help you have to dedicate to LeBron, but we just need to do a better job."

Cleveland still needed some key plays down the stretch and got an unlikely one from guard Sasha Pavlovic, who raced back on defense and blocked a breakaway layup by New Jersey's Jason Kidd to preserve a 77-73 edge with 1:45 remaining.

"I knew Jason Kidd probably was not going to dunk, so I just followed him and tried to get the ball," Pavlovic said. "I think it was a big play for us."

"I should have took a peek," Kidd said. "He made a great hustle play and that gave them some energy. It was my fault, but that's what the playoffs are all about - making plays at the right time."

In the final minute, Hughes and James - who combined to shoot 15-of-41 from the floor - made baskets that also kept it a two-possession game.

Hughes scored 17 points and Pavlovic added 15 for the Cavalers, who held an overall 51-37 advantage on the glass.

Vince Carter had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Richard Jefferson scored 16 points for the Nets, who shot just 37 percent (29-of-78). Kidd had seven points, nine assists and 10 rebounds.

"We felt if we could control the boards and keep it close that we'd have a good chance," Kidd said. "They had quite a few possessions where they had multiple shots and they made them. That's something we have to work on if we want a chance to win any games in this series."

Carter made 7-of-23 shots, including 1-of-8 in the fourth quarter, when New Jersey was held to 18 points.

"I was disappointed in myself," Carter said. "There were some point-blank shots I should have made and I can make in traffic but I didn't put it in the basket. If my team's going to trust me and put the ball in my hands, you have to make them."

"It's going to have to be our team versus Vince; five guys guarding the ball," Cavs coach Mike Brown said.

Game Two is here Tuesday.

In their first-round series, the sixth-seeded Nets also began on the road against the upstart Toronto Raptors and wasted no time in wresting away home-court advantage with a 96-91 win in the opener. They held onto it - barely - and won the series in six games.

New Jersey gave away a double-digit lead in the third quarter and trailed in the closing seconds before being rescued by Jefferson, who made a go-ahead layup and clinching steal to prevent a return trip to Toronto.

So instead of Lake Ontario, the Nets are on the shores of Lake Erie for a couple of days. They tried to make the most of it.

A 13-2 run at the outset of the second quarter - with Kidd and Jefferson on the bench - gave New Jersey a 33-25 lead. Carter scored the first seven points.

With James held scoreless in the period, the Cavaliers got back in the game behind Hughes and Pavlovic, backcourt mates who scored seven points apiece to provide a 43-41 halftime edge.

"Fatigue-wise, we really didn't have our legs, and that affected our jump shots," James said. "Those were the same jump shots we made in the Washington series because we were playing every other day."

Kidd, who averaged a triple-double against Toronto, finally scored in the second half, when James also resurfaced. Kidd and Jefferson had 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter before James had two free throws and a hoop for a 65-65 tie.

The teams are meeting in the postseason for the first time since 1993, when Cleveland eliminated New Jersey in the first round for the second straight year.


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