Cavaliers-Nets Preview

The Associated Press

Kyrie Irving is returning to the state where he starred in high school. Deron Williams will be waiting for him.

A former New Jersey high school standout, Irving will try to help his Cleveland Cavaliers end a three-game slide Monday night against Williams and the New Jersey Nets.

Irving leads all rookies with 18.6 points per game as he plays his first professional game in the Garden State. He became a McDonald's All-American a few miles from Newark at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J., before spending one season at Duke. He will match up with Williams for the third time.

Irving scored a season-high 32 points the last time these point guards met, but Williams had 27 and 10 assists as the Nets (15-31) won 99-96 in Cleveland on Jan. 27. Williams outscored Irving 16-13 in New Jersey's 98-82 loss there Jan. 1.

Cavaliers coach Byron Scott made a controversial move by resting Irving for the first 4:17 of the fourth quarter Sunday as Cleveland's deficit grew from eight to 16 points in a 103-87 home loss to Atlanta. Irving finished with 19 points and 10 assists for his first NBA double-double.

"I thought he was pretty tired playing that whole third quarter and the way he was pushing the ball and getting us in the game," Scott said. "I gave no thought to trying to squeeze out another four or five minutes in the fourth quarter. I wanted him to get a little bit of a rest."

Cleveland (16-26) fell behind by 12 points after one quarter and is now 3 1/2 games behind New York for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"It came down to how we started the game," Irving said. "At times we didn't play with the sense of urgency we needed. To beat a good team, you have to be that much better on that day."

While the Cavs seek a better start, the Nets will try to recover after blowing a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter Saturday in a 102-94 home loss to lowly New Orleans. New Jersey has lost 10 of 12 at home.

"When you get outscored 32-12 in the fourth quarter, it's never good," coach Avery Johnson said. "We missed layups. We missed open jump shots. We had shots blocked at the basket. We missed some opportunities."

Williams returned with 20 points and 12 assists after missing four games with a sore right calf.

The Nets have two players named Gerald that the Cavs have not seen this season with New Jersey. Gerald Wallace made his debut with 11 points Saturday after being acquired Thursday from Portland.

Gerald Green, signed for the rest of the season Sunday after two 10-day contracts, is averaging 18.6 points over his last five games.

"We have to be able to win games like this," Green said Saturday. "We played well for so long and then watched it slip away."

Anthony Morrow had 20 points Saturday and is averaging 18.5 against Cleveland this season.

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