NBA: Nets spoil James’ big night

Brook Lopez scored 22 points, and the Nets withstood a strong performance by James, who was criticized for comments earlier this week where he said he would take a pay cut to play with several of his NBA friends.

Brooklyn Nets guard Shane Larkin (L) shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov (20) in an NBA game.   -  AP

LeBron James scored 30 points but got little assistance from his supporting cast as the first place Cleveland Cavaliers slumped to a 104-95 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.

Brook Lopez scored 22 points, and the Nets withstood a strong performance by James, who was criticized for comments earlier this week where he said he would take a pay cut to play with several of his NBA friends. James can become a free agent at the end of this season.

James went scoreless in the fourth quarter, and the Cavaliers managed just 12 points in the final 12 minutes. "Tonight we took a step back, and we can't afford to do that late in the season like this," James said.

James made his first 10 shots. He missed two shots upon returning in the fourth quarter and finished 13-for-16 from the field while adding six rebounds and five assists.

Shane Larkin added 16 points for the Nets. Bojan Bogdanovic tallied 12 points, while reserves Sean Kilpatrick and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 10 apiece as the Nets won for the third time in their past 11 games.

In contrast, the Cavs bench scored just 26 combined points. "It's not about LeBron, it's about the team. We have to play hard for 48 minutes, and if we don't, things like this will continue to happen," said Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue.

Kyrie Irving shot six-for-22 and scored 13 points, while Kevin Love had 11 points on five-of-14 shooting. The Cavaliers shot four-for-21 while getting outscored 24-12 in the fourth.

The Nets (20-51) took a 10-point lead into halftime and led by as much as 13 in the first half. By the end of the third, Cleveland held a 83-80 and appeared to be heading to a strong fourth quarter. But the Cavaliers couldn't convert on three-pointers. During Brooklyn's deciding run, James missed a three-pointer, Irving failed on three attempts, and J.R. Smith also misfired on three shots from beyond the arc.

"We came into this game saying you can't overlook this Brooklyn team," Lue said. "We tried to come back and play hard, but it just wasn't enough. We just have to play hard. Every time, we have to compete."

Lue was also asked about a meeting he had with James after Saturday's 21-point loss in Miami but declined to offer any details.



Bulls need to bear down



The New York Knicks completed a back-to-back sweep of the Chicago Bulls with a 106-94 win at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

New York defeated the Bulls 115-107 in Chicago on Wednesday. The two losses cramp the Bulls' run for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago fell one and a half games behind the Detroit Pistons in the race for eighth place.



Thunder roll over Jazz



Kevin Durant scored 20 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 113-91 victory over the Utah Jazz.

Durant shot seven-of-11 from the field to go with eight rebounds and nine assists. It was the 58th straight game he has scored at least 20 points. Russell Westbrook posted 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as he came up just short of his fourth straight triple-double. He sat out the fourth quarter. Steven Adams added 14 points and seven rebounds. Dion Waiters came off the bench to score 17 points.

Utah was paced by Rodney Hood, who scored 11 points on four-of-nine shooting. Trey Burke scored 17 points as the Jazz fell to 35-37. The Thunder have won six in a row and improved to 50-22.

It's the fifth time they have reached the 50-point mark since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City.