No matter what they do, the New Jersey Nets can't seem to win.
The Nets shot a season-best 47.4 percent from the field, outrebounded Cleveland 46-34 and led midway through the fourth quarter Saturday night. But they still ended up losing to the Cavaliers 109-99.
"I don't want the players to get disillusioned," said coach Don Casey, who is 2-6 since taking over for John Calipari on March 15. "We're competing. We just have to get more intelligent."
The Nets have lost five of their last six games to fall to 5-23, the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
"Can you imagine we shot 47 percent and lost," Casey said. "But the other team shot 50 percent. The absence of (injured) Keith Van Horn hurt but we scored enough points."
Stephon Marbury, acquired from Minnesota on March 11, led the Nets with 26 points. But it wasn't enough to prevent another loss.
"Its frustrating, very frustrating," Marbury said. "When you can't accomplish the things you're trying to accomplish, it's difficult to accept. But we're playing hard, playing like professionals."
Shawn Kemp scored 26 points and Cleveland limited New Jersey to three baskets over the final 7:44 to win for the third time in four games.
"Give New Jersey credit," said Cavs coach Mike Fratello. "They were obviously shorthanded but they shot well, hustled and played hard. We were fortunate to hang on. I'm happy for our guys they found a way to win it at the end."
Jayson Williams had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Nets, while Brevin Knight scored 17 points for Cleveland.
After trailing most of the game, New Jersey took an 88-87 lead on Chris Carr's jumper with 7:44 left. But the Nets got only one field goal over the next 6:13 and Cleveland closed the game with a 20-11 spurt.
Williams hit one of two free thows with 6:16 remaining to tie the game 89-89, but the Cavs then took control with the help of 3-pointers by Derek Anderson and Johnny Newman.
Newman's 3-pointer started an 8-0 run that included baskets by Corrie Blount and Knight and a free throw by Kemp that made it 100-91 with 3:04 left.
"It was a hard fought game but it wasn't a great game for us," Kemp said. "The big thing is we got a win on the road and we've got to get a little better at doing that in the second half of the season." Notes: Van Horn, who sprained his right ankle in Friday's 100-91 loss to Indiana, participated in pregame warmups before deciding to sit the game out. ... Entering the game, the Nets were last in the league in shooting percentage at 38.5. ... After 28 games last year, New Jersey was 16-12.
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