NEW YORK — After three long games on the road, the Brooklyn Nets made quick work of Cleveland back at home.
Paul Pierce scored 17 of his 22 points in a flawless first quarter, and the Nets pulled away in the second on the way to their 12th straight home victory, 108-97 over the Cavaliers on Friday night.
“It was great for him to come out and get us started and get us going, and then that second group kind of finished it off,” Nets guard Deron Williams said.
Joe Johnson added 14 points for the Nets, who played three straight overtime games on their road trip, losing the last two of them. But things were much easier inside Barclays Center, where they won for the 19th time in their last 21 games.
“It sure beats us getting booed earlier in the year,” Pierce said. “So we’re playing well here. We feel comfortable on our home turf.”
The Nets are hoping to open the playoffs here, but still have work to do to catch either Toronto or Chicago for home-court advantage in the first round. They are 2½ games behind the Raptors for first place in the Atlantic Division and 1½ behind the Bulls for the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets were without Kevin Garnett for a 15th straight game because of back spasms and Andrei Kirilenko for a third in a row because of a sprained left ankle, but had six players score in double figures and shot 55 percent from the field. They scored the first 12 points of the second quarter to break away from a 29-all tie, and Cleveland never put much of a dent in the lead.
Brooklyn had a 48-18 advantage in bench points in improving to 28-12 since Jan. 1, best in the East.
“That’s who we are. If we’re going to go anywhere in this playoffs, we’re a team full of depth. We’ve got a number of guys that can beat you on any given night, it’s not really surrounded around one particular guy,” Pierce said. “Tonight I was our leading scorer, but then it can be somebody else tomorrow, the next game and that’s what makes us so dangerous.”
Luol Deng and Dion Waiters each scored 20 points for the Cavaliers, who had won three in a row. They had pulled off a pair of big fourth-quarter comebacks during the win streak, beating Detroit on Wednesday on Waiters’ jumper as time expired, but there was no run in this one.
“I’ve come to the conclusion of expecting more from us. That’s what’s disappointing,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “It’s disappointing to play the way we did tonight. It’s tough to swallow.”
Williams and Alan Anderson each scored 13 points for Brooklyn, which improved to 11-4 this month and can tie the franchise record for most victories in March by beating Minnesota here Sunday night.
Williams made a 3-pointer and Pierce hit two straight for a 9-0 Brooklyn lead, and Pierce was 4 for 4 before the first was half over. But Spencer Hawes and Deng led a solid finish to the quarter that allowed Cleveland to tie it at 29.
The Nets were even better to open the second, scoring 12 straight to make it 41-29 on Anderson’s 3-pointer. The lead reached 17 on a 3-pointer by Pierce with 2:05 remaining, and Brooklyn took a 61-50 lead into halftime. Six players had at least four points in the quarter.
Cleveland cut Brooklyn’s 16-point lead in the third in half by the end of the quarter, but the Nets quickly regained control by opening the fourth with an 8-1 spurt for a 15-point cushion.
“We’ve got to do a better job coming out in the first quarter,” Waiters said, “not always falling down by a big margin.”
NOTES: Brooklyn’s Jorge Gutierrez made some money and lost some Friday. Shortly after the Nets signed him to a multiyear deal after the expiration of his second 10-day contract, the rookie point guard was fined $15,000 by the NBA for making excessive contact above the shoulders when he fouled Charlotte’s Cody Zeller on Wednesday. ... After opening the season against each other with the Cavs’ win in Cleveland on Oct. 30, they will finish things off in the same spot on April 16.
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