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Jefferson, Nets send shorthanded Cavaliers to another loss

Dec 5, 2007 - 4:10 AM By Jeff Brewer PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Nets took full advantage of superstar LeBron James' absence and handed the Cleveland Cavaliers their fourth straight loss.

Richard Jefferson scored a season-high 36 points and Vince Carter added 19 as the Nets dominated the third quarter in a 100-79 victory at Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday night.

Jefferson scored 13 points in the first half for New Jersey, which led by just four points at the half and then outscored Cleveland, 27-16, in the third period to take control of the contest.

It was a small measure of revenge by the Nets, who lost in six games to the Cavaliers in the last season's Eastern Conference semifinals.

"Whenever you get an opportunity to play against a team without (James), you have to make sure that you go out there and get it done," Jefferson said. "With that being said, they still have enough talent to win.

"We've lost to teams with less than (what they had on Tuesday). There's no such thing as a gimme in this league."

New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank viewed the win more as a starting point, now that the Nets are 9-9.

"When you say LeBron, that's a focal point," Frank said. "We've been through that drill not having Vince, so you can evaluate it based on the players that played. We just have to keep getting consistent play and effort from everyone."

James sprained his left index finger in the second quarter of a 109-74 loss at Detroit on Wednesday. The superstar forward had a team-high 15 points in 18 first-half minutes before sitting out the second half of that contest.

That loss was followed by road setbacks at Toronto and Boston without James, who is averaging a league-high 30.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 8.1 assists through 16 games this season.

"I thought that we as a team felt sorry for ourselves," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "Obviously, if LeBron plays, we're a lot better team. But I know for a fact we've won ballgames without LeBron. If he's out, then we have to at least fight, and that's what we've done in the past."

The Nets scored the first nine points of the third period to take control, 56-43, at the 10:00 mark.

Jefferson, who would have been guarded by James, had a monster game - converting 11-of-18 from the field and 13-of-15 from the line.

"It was good to see us jump on a team in the third quarter. That's something we haven't done in a while," Carter said. "(Jefferson) is showing that, now that he's healthy, he's definitely an All-Star."

Jefferson's performance on Tuesday pushed him past Kerry Kittles for second place on the Nets' all-time scoring list with 7,108 points.

Carter, playing on a sore lower right leg, shot 7-of-13 from the floor and doled out seven assists.

"If I'm able to play, then I'm OK, I'll live," Carter said. "It's just a weird feeling. A sharp pain shot through (my right leg), and I had to go in the back and walk it off. I was able to get back on the floor."

Shannon Brown started in place of James and scored 10 first-quarter points and finished with a career-high 20. Daniel Gibson knocked down 4-of-8 3-pointers en route to 17 points for Cleveland.

"When you have a guy like LeBron that's out, I'm not going to say it makes the game harder, but he makes it easier for a lot of players," Brown said.

Ranked seventh in the league in rebounds per game entering the contest, the Cavaliers were beaten on the glass, 49-41, thanks in part to numerous injuries to key performers besides James.

Donyell Marshall, Larry Hughes, and Cedric Simmons did not play, and Anderson Varejao, who was given an offer sheet by the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday, continues his season-long absence.

Jason Kidd had seven points and 10 rebounds for the Nets, who learned early Monday that general manager Ed Stefanski had left the team to take a similar position with the Philadelphia 76ers - replacing the fired Billy King.

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