And, with the win, the Cavs further established themselves as one of the most impressive teams in the Eastern Conference. In a 114-107 win, Cleveland went toe-to-toe with Brooklyn (who were without Kevin Durant), taking seemingly every punch possible on the way to the win.
The first quarter was even, with the Nets leading 31-30 after the first quarter. But then the Cavs largely dominated the second quarter, outscoring the Nets 35-28 and taking a lead into the half.
But then the Nets came back because, with the talent they have, that’s what they do. Kyrie Irving, in particular, took it to the Cavs by scoring 14 points in the quarter to give the Nets a one-point lead going into the fourth.
Cleveland, though, was largely able to lock Brooklyn down in the fourth quarter, with the Nets managing just 19 points in the quarter on 6-20 shooting. Irving had just six points in the quarter on 2-7 shooting with Isaac Okoro primarily defending him. James Harden, meanwhile, had just six points — all from the free throw line — with Jarrett Allen often defending him on switches. The Cavs’ offense did just enough — Darius Garland had 8 points and 4 assists in the quarter to pace Cleveland — to pick up a win.
The exclamation point on the win came via defense, with Lauri Markkanen guarding Harden tight on the wing with 17 seconds to go. Harden threw an errant pass to Irving, which Okoro scooped up and took to the basket for a wide-open two-handed dunk. Those two points put the Cavs up five with 15 seconds to go. Irving missed a three on the other end in response. Garland grabbed the rebound to ice the win.
The win matters too. With it, Cleveland is now tied for the most wins in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs also currently have 2.5 game lead on the seventh-seeded Charlotte Hornets, giving them a solid cushion above the play-in tournament with 37 games left to go in the season.
Up next: The Cavs have another key Eastern Conference game on Wednesday when they travel to Chicago to play the Bulls. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.