for this game

Harris, Nets hold off Cavaliers

Mar 13, 2008 - 4:31 AM By Joe Rizzo PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) - Back spasms kept Ben Wallace - and the Cleveland Cavaliers' defense - on the bench. By the time they woke up, Devin Harris found a way to hold them off.

With Wallace sidelined, the balanced New Jersey Nets had their way with the Cavaliers early and Harris had his way late as they halted a six-game losing streak with a 104-99 victory on Wednesday.

Harris finished with 19 points, Richard Jefferson led the way with 24 and every New Jersey starter reached double figures in scoring by the 8:56 mark of the third quarter. Bostjan Nachbar added 21 points off the bench to help to New Jersey to its first win in March.

Vince Carter scored 14 points, Josh Boone added 13 and Nenad Krstic 10 as the Nets won in their return home from a winless five-game road trip.

"It was a must-win situation for us," Harris said. "We had a rough trip. We have to protect home court, but we needed this win to get our confidence back and get things in perspective for us."

LeBron James finished with 42 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists as Cleveland lost for the second time in its last seven games. With his final point, James passed Austin Carr for second on the Cavs' all-time scoring list with 10,266 points.

With or without Wallace, the Cavaliers cannot solve the weak Atlantic Division, falling to 6-8 overall and 2-6 on the road against those foes. They have lost all three games in the season series with the Nets.

"To give up 38 points in the first quarter is mind-boggling," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "Ben (being out), it doesn't matter. This is the third time we played them and the third time they kicked our behinds."

Wallace's back spasms forced him out of his second straight game. After initially tweaking his back against Chicago and playing against Indiana, Wallace left the game against Portland after 16 minutes. He received treatment earlier Wednesday but could not play and will be evaluated again Thursday. He remains day-to-day.

The Cavaliers mounted a run in the fourth quarter behind James and Damon Jones, who each scored nine points in an 18-4 explosion. Jones' third 3-pointer of the spurt closed Cleveland within 90-89 with 5:24 left.

He finished with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from long range, while Devin Brown was 4-of-4 from the arc and finished with 19 points. The Nets gained a couple of stops on defense before Harris made a fast-break layup and dished to Nachbar for another to make it a five-point game with 3:40 left. James converted a pair from the foul line, and Cleveland got one stop before Harris scored on another fast break to make it 96-91 with 2:36 left.

Delonte West nailed a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left, and James made two from the line 30 seconds later as the Cavs clawed back to 99-98.

Marcus Williams went to the line for the Nets with 15 seconds remaining. Williams made the first of two shots, then watched Carter grab the rebound of his miss on the second and hit two from the line to increase the lead to 102-98 with 14 seconds left to put it out of reach.

"Two crucial turnovers late in the game for a team that protects the ball well. To have 17 turnovers on the road, it's hard to win," James said.

"The way Devin Harris started and closed is a big reason for the victory," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "He had some great big pushes."

New Jersey erupted with a 23-6 run in the first 6:30 of the game behind eight points apiece from Krstic and Jefferson en route to a 38-23 lead after one quarter.

The Nets made their first nine shots and were 17-of-22 (77.3 percent) for their best shooting quarter of the season. They matched their best scoring output of any quarter of the season, as well.

"We came out in the first quarter with the type of fire and intensity that we need to play with every game," said Boone, who added seven rebounds before fouling out.

A 3-pointer by James with 3:54 remaining in the second quarter capped Cleveland's 11-3 burst to close the gap to 49-44. The Nets countered with the final four points over the last 43 seconds to take a 58-47 edge into the intermission. They held an 80-67 lead after three.

With 4:55 left in the second quarter, James illustrated why he is one of the best and most exciting players in the NBA.

Jefferson took a pass on the right wing and leaned in for a 10-foot jumper that James blocked with a flying right hand. Then, James gathered a pass on the ensuing break and was mugged by Carter, only to make a layup - adding an emphatic fist-pump and scream - and a free throw to complete a three-point play.

A knee-to-knee collision with Carter with 11 seconds remaining left James hobbling, although he went to the foul line and made 1-of-2. Carter reported no pain after the game, but James said his left knee was numb.

"It hurt pretty bad," James said. "And knee-to-knee? Yeah. See how I feel tomorrow. I can't feel it right now. I'm kind of numbed up right now with the ice."

Krstic's finger-roll capped a 10-2 run to open the second half and extend New Jersey's lead to 68-49. He became the team's final starter to reach double figures.

The Nets' lead had been as high 17 in the first half.

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