Nets-Cavaliers Preview

The Associated Press

Behind his second-highest scoring output of the season, Deron Williams led the New Jersey Nets to an impressive victory their last time out.

While he's one of the top assist men in the game, Williams may want to think about looking for his shot more going forward.

Seeking back-to-back wins for the first time all season, Williams and the Nets conclude a three-game trip Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Two nights after falling 110-95 at Eastern Conference-best Chicago, New Jersey (6-13) bounced back with a 97-90 overtime victory at Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Williams, whose layup with 1.3 seconds to go in regulation sent the game into overtime, finished with 34 points and 11 assists, hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 26.8 seconds remaining.

"Our new team motto is, 'I love it,'"Williams said. "It started off sarcastic, but now we use it for everything. I had five turnovers, but I love it."

Williams, who ranks seventh in the league with an average of 8.6 assists, leads the team with 18.9 points per game. The Nets, however, seem to have much to gain if their two-time All-Star point guard takes on a bigger scoring load. New Jersey is 4-0 when Williams scores at least 24 points and 2-12 when he has 23 or fewer.

After being held to 16 points during a 98-82 loss at Cleveland (7-10) on New Year's day, Williams might look to come out with more of a scorer's mentality in this one.

Lighting up the scoreboard, however, could prove difficult against a Cavaliers team coming off a stifling defensive effort. After holding its own in a 92-85 loss at Miami on Tuesday, Cleveland snapped a four-game skid the next night with a 91-81 victory over New York - limiting the Knicks to the lowest point total by an opponent in over a year.

"I feel a little bit better with the way we've played the last couple games, especially on the defensive end," coach Byron Scott said. "(Wednesday), I thought we reaped the benefits of getting back to the basics and playing good, solid, hard-nosed defense."

Averaging a team-high 16.8 points, rookie Kyrie Irving scored just seven but matched a season best with seven assists.

"I get my teammates involved and that's the most important thing," he said. "Hopefully, we can have more games like this and whether I score the ball or not, I'm still happy."

While Irving and Williams should present an interesting backcourt matchup, Cleveland's Anderson Varejao and New Jersey's Kris Humphries, who rank fifth and seventh, respectively, in the league with 11.2 and 10.8 rebounds per game, could make things competitive down low.

Humphries, who has taken on a bigger role with starting center Brook Lopez (broken right foot) sidelined, had 13 points and a season-best 19 boards versus the 76ers.

Varejao, meanwhile, had 10 points and 16 rebounds against the Knicks for his fifth double-double in seven contests.

"He's a stat sheet stuffer. That's the one thing about Andy. He's going to do a little bit of everything and (Wednesday) was no different," Scott said.

Antawn Jamison, who averaged 17.3 points over the first 10 games, has cooled down a bit, scoring 11.7 in his last seven.

Jamison, however, is averaging 24.5 points during his two most recent meetings in this series - including a 23-point effort on 10-of-15 shooting when the teams met earlier this month.

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