There’s only one direction to go when you’ve been floored.
“It’s painful to get knocked down, but it’s shameful not to get back up if you get knocked down,” Cleveland coach David Blatt said.
The Cavaliers did Wednesday, with Kevin Love collecting 17 points and 18 rebounds to help them bounce back from their embarrassing performance against Golden State with a 91-78 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
LeBron James also had 17 points and neither forward played in the fourth quarter, a welcome rest with a home game against the Los Angeles Clippers tonight.
More importantly for the Cavs, it was a welcome performance after they were crushed 132-98 on Monday in the NBA Finals rematch.
“I think tonight it was very easy to look each other in the face and know that we got better tonight,” James said.
Love had only three points and six rebounds Monday, renewing questions about his role with the Cavs in his second season in Cleveland. But he would fit with the Cavs or any other team the way he played Wednesday, controlling the defensive backboards — all of his rebounds were on that end — while shooting 5 for 10 from the field.
“You’ve got to respond after a tough game like the other night,” Love said. “I wasn’t the only one, I felt a lot of guys played with more energy and brought it, but there’s really only one way you could go from the last game I had.”
James had only one rebound and played just 29 minutes, but a couple of his powerful dunks in the first quarter showed the Cavs were more ready at the start than they were Monday.
Cleveland led by 23 in the second half before Brooklyn made the score respectable when the Cavs went deep into their reserves.
Brook Lopez had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets, who lost their fourth in a row and must have felt a little like the Cavs did at times Monday.
Nets interim coach Tony Brown said he expected the Cavs to come out “breathing fire,” but this victory had more to do with their talent than tenacity. Cleveland brought players off the bench who would start for Brooklyn, and one of the Cavs’ top reserves, Tristan Thompson, finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“I don’t think it was our best effort since I’ve taken over,” Brown said.
“I don’t know if it was just because it was Cleveland. I don’t know. But we could do a lot better on both ends of the floor.”
Cleveland led 73-55 after three and the Cavs’ stars never had to re-enter after Cleveland began the fourth with a quick burst.
Cavaliers: Timofey Mozgov, who has been the subject of trade rumors but was in the starting lineup again to face Lopez, had 11 points. ... Cleveland improved to 11-1 against Atlantic Division teams this season.
Nets: Brooklyn fell to 5-2 against Cleveland at Barclays Center. ... The Nets are worth $1.7 billion, Forbes said Wednesday in its annual ranking of NBA franchise valuations. That placed the Nets seventh in the league.
FAIR OR FOUL?
Blatt was asked if he had talked to J.R. Smith about the flagrant foul that got him ejected in Monday’s loss. Smith barreled into the Warriors’ Harrison Barnes, who was setting a pick.
“We have talked about it and looking at that play, I’m not sure — I’m not sure — that if that was someone else that that’s a flagrant foul in all honesty,” Blatt said, referring to Smith’s reputation. “But that’s not my decision. That was someone else’s decision and nonetheless, we did talk about it, yes.”
FOLLOW THE LEADER
Love clarified a comment he made about James in the locker room Monday, when he said the Cavs had to look in the mirror and “it all starts with our leader over there and dwindles on down.”
“The only thing thought I was funny was just how my words were taken out of context,” Love said. “All I meant was that LeBron is our leader and we follow him at the end of the day.”
Cavaliers: Host the Clippers tonight.
Nets: Host Utah on Friday.