NEW YORK — The Cleveland Cavaliers felt they had plenty of good looks during a nightmarish fourth quarter.
The results of those shots proved to be the difference in a Thursday defeat.
LeBron James scored 30 points but went scoreless in the fourth quarter, and the Cavaliers managed just 12 points in the final 12 minutes during a 104-95 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.
“Tonight we took a step back, and we can’t afford to do that late in the season like this,” James said.
Cleveland (51-21) struggled most of the night, falling behind by 13 in the first half before mounting a charge in the third quarter. During the third, James scored 15 points and made six of seven shots as the Cavaliers took an 83-80 lead into the fourth.
“I don’t think we started the game with a lot of energy,” James said. “I think we expended a lot in the third quarter trying to come back, which we did.”
Following the comeback from a 10-point halftime deficit, things went south for Cleveland in the fourth.
After taking a 92-90 lead on a 3-pointer by Matthew Dellavedova with 6:11 left, the Cavs went ice cold after James returned with 5:41 left and wound up misfiring on 17 of 21 shots. They missed 10 consecutive shots, and Brooklyn capitalized by scoring the next 14 points. The Nets sealed the win on consecutive 10-footers by Brook Lopez.
“We had some very good looks. We couldn’t knock them down,” James said.
Among the shots the Cavaliers were unable to make were seven 3-pointers. During Brooklyn’s deciding run, James missed a 3-pointer, Kyrie Irving misfired on three attempts, and J.R. Smith also missed three perimeter shots.
“We’re just not playing hard for 48 minutes,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “We came into this game saying you can’t overlook this Brooklyn team. 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.”
James finished 13-for-16 from the floor but had little help. Kevin Love, Irving and Smith combined for 32 points and collectively shot 14-for-46, including 3-for-21 from 3-point range.
“I thought (James) did a great job,” Lue said. “Offensively, he was attacking the basket. He tried to get everyone else involved, but we just didn’t make shots on that end of the floor.
“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.”
While the Cavaliers lamented their lack of energy, the Nets didn’t wilt down the stretch after interim coach Tony Brown made lineup tweaks because of effort issues in recent games.
“They’re a contending team getting themselves ready for the playoffs,” Brown said, “but I thought our energy and our athleticism out in the open court really helped us a lot tonight.”
Lopez led the Nets with 22 points, moving past Vince Carter into second place on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. Shane Larkin added 16 while Bojan Bogdanovic finished 12 as the Nets (20-51) won for the third time in their past 11 games.
“We never gave in,” Lopez said. “They did come out hard in the third quarter and make runs. They did try to hit us early and we just stuck with it.”
NOTES: Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was asked about his meeting with F LeBron James after Saturday’s 21-point loss in Miami but declined to offer specifics. … Cavaliers G Mo Williams (left knee) missed his 16th straight game, but Lue said it is possible that Williams could return Saturday in New York. … The Nets unveiled the logos and uniforms for their NBA Development League affiliate, the Long Island Nets. During the press conference, GM Sean Marks said he had a list of names for the coaching and GM positions for the team, which will play in Barclays Center next season before moving to renovated Nassau Coliseum. … Nets interim coach Tony Brown said shutting down F Thaddeus Young and C Brook Lopez for the rest of the season has been discussed, but the team hasn’t reached that point yet. … Nets C Willie Reed was inactive, but Brown said it had nothing to do with Reed’s since-deleted post on social media about a lack of playing time.