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Nets surprise Cavs, remain half-game out of playoff spot

Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez is defended bt

Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez is defended bt Cleveland Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert and forward Kevin Love in the first half of an NBA game at Barclays Center on Friday, March 27, 2015. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Hands on his hips and gnawing on his clear plastic mouthpiece, a frustrated LeBron James watched while Jarrett Jack took a pair of free throws with 23 seconds left and the Nets up by seven points.

James certainly wasn't expecting this, not with the way the Cavaliers had easily handled the Nets this season and not with struggles that have plagued the Nets at Barclays Center. But there were the Nets making life a bit miserable for Cleveland despite being shorthanded and missing a key player in Thaddeus Young.

Thanks in part to Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.

Johnson had 20 points and nine assists and Lopez added 20 points and nine rebounds to propel the Nets to a 106-98 victory Friday night.

Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 18 points off the bench and JarJack was efficient with 16 points and five assists for the Nets (31-40), who won for the fifth time in their last seven games and moved into ninth place in the Eastern Conference. They're a half-game behind the eighth-place Celtics.

Kyrie Irving had 26 points and James had 24 points, nine assists and five steals for the Cavs (47-27).

Searching to find a replacement for Young, who was unavailable after hyperextending his left knee in Wednesday's win over the Hornets, Lionel Hollins inserted a struggling Mason Plumlee into the lineup. He had him in tandem with Lopez because he didn't want to use a small lineup given the Cavs' lengthy front line that features 7-1 Timofey Mozgov.

The Nets held their own inside against Cleveland in the first half, racking up a 30-22 edge in points in the paint. It aided in fueling their 57-56 halftime advantage, giving them reason to believe they could take down the second-best team in the conference nine days after getting shellacked by 25 points in Cleveland.

Knowing they have eight of their final 11 games at home, a place they're only 13-20 this season, it's a feeling they must find ways to experience more often. Or those playoff dreams won't be turning into a reality.

"We have to," Deron Williams said before the game. "We talk about winning games -- 95 percent of them are at home. We got to win here. We got to find a way to get some wins in this building and give our fans something to cheer about."

Notes & quotes: Looking to soften the blow of losing Young, the Nets signed forward Earl Clark to a 10-day contract. He finished with seven points in 11:14, all in the second half . . . "We were looking around for somebody that could give us some offense by spreading the court and making shots," Hollins said.


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