Cleveland Cavaliers

Defence key to James Harden and Kyrie Irving-led Nets stumbling again in Cleveland

In his second game back, after missing seven straight, Kyrie Irving erupted for a season-high 38 points on 14-of-24 shooting from the field but for the second time in three days, the Brooklyn Nets stumbled to a loss.

While the first one was competitive, going into double-overtime, this one with a final score of 125-113 was settled earlier in the second half. Kevin Durant sat this one out, the first of a back-to-back for the Nets, but that meant Brooklyn were swept by the Cavaliers in their two games in Cleveland.

Here are the two biggest talking points from this game:

The Nets defence needs work

Including this game, Brooklyn now allows an average of 116.4 points per game - ranked 27th in the league. Their defensive rating of 111.4 is 24th-best in the league.

Not great stats and the team knows that.

"You could say we're not a defensive team or we made too many errors schematically," said Nets head coach Steve Nash. "But I think the bigger message is that just showing up to the gym is not good enough.

Through these past two games in Cleveland, the Nets have allowed a historic 134 points in the paint.

With no Durant, the team's other two stars stuffed the stat sheet. Irving also dished out five assists to add to his 38 while James Harden recorded 19 points and 11 assists - his fourth double-double in four games for the Nets.

Irving tried to light a spark late in the fourth, scoring 11 of the team's first 20 points in the final period, before both teams waived the white flags and pulled their starters from the game.

"I think initially it starts on the defensive end," Joe Harris said postgame.

"We only scored 24 points in the (third) quarter, but we gave up 37. A lot of it was I think the defensive miscues probably led into bad offense as well, and it was something that was addressed at halftime and our sense of urgency just wasn't where it needed to be to start the third quarter."

Sexton balls out, again!

In Game 1 of this two-game series, Collin Sexton caught fire in overtime and led the Cavaliers to victory. In this clash, there weren't any fireworks but he was still the team's best player with team-high tallies of 25 points and nine assists.

Not to mention, just the one turnover and the game-high plus-minus of +18 in his 30 minutes of action. He played nearly all of the key four-minute stretch in the third quarter when the Cavaliers turned it around on the back of a 20-5 run.

He was one of six Cavaliers players to finish in double figures as the team improved to 8-7 by winning their third straight.

What's next?

The Nets head back home to play two straight against Miami Heat, with the first of those two games coming on the second night of a back-to-back. On the other hand, the Cavaliers travel to Boston to play the Celtics before returning home to host LeBron James and the defending champs.

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