King reigns over Brooklyn in royal affair
James’ Third Quarter Dooms Shorthanded Nets at Barclays Center
The Prince wore a simple plaid shirt and jeans.
The Princess donned a demure Tory Burch jacket and black leggings.
Meanwhile, the King and his men simply wore out the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 17,732 at Downtown’s Barclays Center, using a big third quarter to cruise to a 110-88 victory in the first-ever NBA game attended by British royalty.
“They brought us luck,” LeBron James jibed shortly after finishing with 18 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals as the Cleveland Cavaliers closed the third quarter with a 24-6 burst to post their seventh consecutive victory. ”It was their first time watching a basketball game, so it was an honor that I would be that guy they decided they wanted to watch,”
The Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge didn’t get to their courtside seats until just after halftime, when the Nets, minus starting center Brook Lopez (back) and All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson (flu), were still well within striking distance of stealing the King’s thunder on this special night at the state-of-the-art arena.
Perhaps buoyed by the buzz-inducing arrival of William and Kate, who were here to promote their partnership with the NBA regarding international wildlife conservation, James immediately went to work.
He scored Cleveland’s first nine points of the third period and handed out five assists in the quarter, including two on a pair of back-to-back emphatic dunks by Tristan Thompson, to give the visiting Cavaliers a 15-point cushion entering the final 12 minutes.
That took a lot of the life out of the Nets (8-11), who dropped their second straight after opening this three-game homestand with what appeared to be a benchmark win over the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs last Wednesday.
“LeBron decided to come out [in the third quarter] and turn on his motor,” Brooklyn head coach Lionel Hollins lamented. “He put it in a different gear and we couldn’t stop it.”
Nor could the Nets climb back into contention in the fourth quarter, which began with Brooklyn’s First Couple, Jay-Z and Beyonce, paying a brief courtside visit to the Royals.
“They didn’t come here to see me,” Hollins noted playfully when asked if all the hoopla surrounding the royal visit had given the game a surreal or “weird” feel.
James, who handed William and Kate a miniature jersey for their son, George, and a full-sized version with “Cambridge” etched on the back, wasn’t the Cavs’ top scorer during the royal fete.
Dion Waiters poured in a game-high 26 points off the bench and Kevin Love added 19 and 14 rebounds for Cleveland, which embarrassed Brooklyn on the boards, 55-33, including a 20-10 advantage off the offensive glass.
“The fact that Brooklyn was short a few guys allowed us to pick up the pace,” admitted Cavs head coach David Blatt, pointing to the absence of two-fifths of the Nets’ starting five.
Kevin Garnett needed only 19 minutes of court time to put up team highs of 14 points and seven rebounds for the Nets, who also lost power forward Mirza Teletovic to a facial laceration and hip injury during the decisive third quarter.
“It did make a difference,” Hollins said of Teletovic’s departure from the contest. “With him out, we were playing two bigs most of the time and we had neither one of the bigs except for KG (Garnett) that could make a shot from outside.”
The Nets (8-11), looking to end their current slide in Chicago on Wednesday night, went a dismal 4-of-19 from 3-point range en route to a 44 percent shooting effort overall.
“Injuries are part of the game. Everybody goes through it,” Brooklyn guard Jarrett Jack said. “You’ve got five guys out there who have to compete. For the latter part of the second half we didn’t compete.”
Lopez, who is officially listed as having a strained lower back, will likely sit out for at least a week.
Johnson, downed by a stomach virus, could be in the lineup Wednesday when the Nets try to avenge their 102-84 home loss to Chicago on Nov. 30.
Either way, Hollins knows his team is up against it as it tries to climb back toward .500 and cut into the early seven-game lead the first-place Toronto Raptors have opened in the Atlantic Division.
“Who else can help us?” Hollins pondered. “One is at home with a back ache and the other one is at home with the flu. It’s the way it goes. But I am proud of us and Cleveland is a very good team. And they are coming together and doing their thing and we just have to keep battling, keep getting better and getting healthy as well.”
Nothing But Net: James, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams and a few other Nets players wore “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts during pregame warm-ups as a show of support for the family of Eric Garner and the ongoing protests throughout the city and our country. There were also protesters outside of the Barclays Center before Wednesday’s game. “They should be political,” Hollins said when asked how he felt about his players wearing the t-shirts. “They should be about social awareness. Basketball is just a small part of life. If they don’t think that there is justice or they feel like there is something that they should protest, then they should. That is their right as citizens of America, and I have no problem with that at all.” … Williams finished with 13 points and a season-high 11 assists against the Cavs.
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