The New Jersey Nets have blown double-digit leads the last two games, undone by their struggles in the third quarter.
The Nets hope to avoid a similar fate and a fifth straight loss Wednesday night despite playing without Deron Williams(notes) for a third consecutive game when they visit the NBA-worst Cleveland Cavaliers.
After winning five in a row, New Jersey (22-47) has lost four straight, averaging 89.5 points. The Nets failed to protect a 17-point lead in a 98-92 loss at Washington on Sunday and fell 102-98 to Indiana on Monday despite leading by 12 in the first half.
New Jersey was outscored 29-17 in the third quarter against the Pacers, shooting 7 of 29. In the loss to the Wizards, the Nets went 4 of 15 from the field in the third, scoring 12 points.
“I think it’s mental,” coach Avery Johnson told the Nets’ official website. “It’s experience. It’s chemistry. It’s continuity and we’re still searching to get better in that area. That’s a big point of emphasis for us.”
Chemistry has been a problem as New Jersey has struggled to put together a healthy lineup. Williams has missed the last two games with a sprained wrist and he’s been limited to eight of a possible 12 games since his trade from Utah last month. New Jersey said he’ll be re-assessed after sitting out Wednesday’s contest.
With Williams out, the Nets could be in line for more misery this week as they will play their next three games on the road, where they are 4-29 and have lost five straight.
However, New Jersey has won two of three against the Cavaliers, including a 95-87 victory at Cleveland on Nov. 10.
Cleveland (13-56) has lost its last six home games and three straight overall following a 97-86 defeat to Orlando on Monday.
While coach Byron Scott was frustrated by the effort and said a possible lineup change could happen Wednesday, some members of the Cavaliers have noticed promising signs.
“I think that practice-wise and seeing guys in the gym, we’re getting it,” said Gibson, who shot 7 of 11 and had six assists. “We’re getting it and it’s not showing on the floor, which is disappointing. We’re definitely getting an understanding of what it takes to win and you just hope that we continue to grow. As we continue to build, we will start to show it.”