CLEVELAND — Collin Sexton had 25 points and nine assists, Andre Drummond added 19 points and 16 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Brooklyn Nets for the second time in three days, 125-113 on Friday night.
The Nets played without superstar forward Kevin Durant, who was held out as a precautionary measure as he continues his comeback from right Achilles tendon surgery.
Durant scored 38 points and played 50 minutes in that game, so he was rested with another game Saturday.
“I don’t want to overreact, but we need the guys to clean things up because we underperformed in two games,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “People are excited to play against our team and will bring it every night. I feel like we need a little more and we have to take more pride in what we’re doing.”
Jarrett Allen – acquired from Brooklyn in the Harden megatrade on Jan. 14 – scored 19 points and Larry Nance Jr. had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland, which has won three in a row and moved above .500 at 8-7.
The Cavaliers outrebounded the Nets 50-29 and scored 70 points in the paint, maintaining a double-digit lead for the final 13 minutes. Taurean Prince, who also was dealt by Brooklyn, had 14 points off the bench.
“We’re kind of learning on the fly because we haven’t had many practices, but we have to have constant effort,” Harden said. “Honestly, our problem isn’t offense. We’re not worried at all about offense. It’s our defense.”
Irving scored back-to-back hoops to open the third, putting Brooklyn in front 64-61 before the Cavaliers answered with a 28-11 run to take the lead for good. Their largest advantage was 16 points late in the fourth.
Cleveland point guard Darius Garland had 11 points after missing eight games with a sprained right shoulder. Sexton, who scored a career-high 42 points two nights earlier, collected 67 points and 14 assists in the sweep.
“When we’re a whole, healthy team, we’re very tough to beat,” Drummond said. “These were great games for us. We have all the tools to be a great team.”
Irving scored 18 points and Harden had 10 points and eight assists in the first half, but the Cavaliers held a 61-60 lead. The Nets started their 11th different lineup in 17 games, moving Jeff Green to a reserve role in favor of Bruce Brown.
Brooklyn had won four in a row before arriving in Cleveland, where Irving spent his first six seasons.
“This was two ugly losses,” Irving said. “I would have loved to get a win coming back to town. We have to figure it out, that’s it. No one else is going to do it for us. We just have to stay focused on making progress.”