The Cleveland Cavaliers entered the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., confident in their chances to make the playoffs after drawing to within three games of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference because of a three-game winning streak.
But someone forgot to tell the Brooklyn Nets.
After the Cavaliers battled back to tie the game at 29 at the end of the first quarter, the Nets outpaced them by 11 points in the second, and never looked back en route to a 108-97 victory.
"(I'm) expecting more from us, and that's why it's disappointing," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "It's disappointing to see us play the way that we did tonight because we had been playing so well. To come out and play the way we did, and obviously, Brooklyn had something to do with it, it's tough to swallow.
"We didn't do a good job of containing the basketball tonight. No matter who was on the floor defensively, guys were able to get into the paint, collapse our defense and make plays. I also thought that early in the first quarter, we didn't do a great job with our game plan discipline. That was huge for us tonight, and it had something to do with the outcome of the game, especially with them shooting 55 percent and scoring 108 points."
Nets small forward Paul Pierce provided Brooklyn with plenty of offense in the first half, as he scored 22 points, all in the first two quarters of play. He converted five of his six three-point attempts and made all seven free throws, in addition to handing out three assists and hauling in a pair of rebounds.
"We weren't doing what we were supposed to do," Brown said of Pierce being open on the perimeter. "One time, we did, and that's when (Jarrett) Jack fouled Paul. We just weren't locked into what we were supposed to be doing.
"We were out there running around, and with the veterans that they have, those guys are all-stars and high-level guys that have played in big games, if you just run around and are doing what you want to do and don't have five guys on a string, they're going to make you pay. They have a certain confidence in their game, especially playing against a big team, and it showed. We weren't in the right spots or doing the right things."
In addition to Pierce, the Nets got 48 points off the bench from seven players, including 13 from small forward Alan Anderson, as well as 10 each from center Andray Blatche and shooting guard Marcus Thornton.
Despite Brooklyn's bench scoring in the third quarter, the Cavaliers were able to make it a five-point game. However, that was when the Nets went on their final run of the game and rebuilt their double-digit lead, something Cleveland was unable to overcome.
"I thought we were playing the right way, and then, they just lined us up and drove the ball right at us," Brown said. "After we brought it within five, I think there was a timeout and they just took it right to us and we couldn't convert at the other end. It was tough. They probably went on a stretch where they hit four of five or five of six buckets, and by then, it was a 17-point game."