EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New Jersey needed only 12 minutes to start forgetting a horrible road trip. That's all the time Mike Brown needed to realize his team still can't stop the Nets.
The Nets were coming off an 0-5 trip through the Southwest Division in which they were hardly competitive. But they looked completely different back home, blitzing the Cavs with their best first quarter of the season and improving to 3-0 against the team that knocked them out of last season's playoffs.
"It was a must-win situation for us," point guard Devin Harris said. "We had a rough road trip. We needed this win to get our confidence back."
James moved into second place on Cleveland's career scoring list, and added 11 rebounds and seven assists. But the short-handed Cavaliers got little else from their starting lineup and had a two-game winning streak snapped.
"They kicked our behind. Right now, we don't have any answers obviously for that team and it showed tonight, it showed in the first two games," Brown said. "They got our number. They kick our behind and until we go and prove different, you've got to give them credit. Richard Jefferson, Vince (Carter), they've had a field day every time we've played them."
Bostjan Nachbar added 21 points and Harris had 19, including three buckets in the last four-plus minutes after Cleveland had cut a 19-point deficit to one. New Jersey climbed back into the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We got Devin back two games before we went on that road trip. If you're trying to establish an identity, it's hard to do it against San Antonio back-to-back, against New Orleans, Dallas and Houston on a 20-game win streak," Jefferson said. "It's difficult, but no one here was looking down or been upset. We were frustrated, but it's going to take time. It's good to be back in the Eastern Conference."
In 375 career games, James has 10,267 points. Austin Carr had 10,265 in 635 games. It won't be long before James passes Brad Daugherty, who finished with 10,389 in 548 games.
Sasha Pavlovic was in Cleveland's starting lineup in his first game since spraining his left foot on Jan. 23, missing all three shots in nine scoreless minutes. Ben Wallace was out with back spasms, joining Zydrunas Ilgauskas (back) and Daniel Gibson (left ankle) as sidelined key members of the Cavs' rotation.
The Cavs trailed by double digits for most of the first three quarters, then got within one on a couple of occasions in the fourth behind James and reserves Devin Brown and Damon Jones. Brown scored 19 and Jones had 12.
New Jersey made its first nine shots and started 14-of-16 in a 38-point first quarter, matching its best period of the season. The Nets hit 17 of 22 shots (77 percent) in the first 12 minutes and led 38-23 after Carter picked off James' pass and converted a layup with 0.5 seconds left.
"We lost the game in the first quarter," James said. "Giving up 38 points, that's their season high, and we lost by five points and got outscored by 15 in the first quarter. So we started off, we didn't show no adjustments on the defensive end and were very lackadaisical, myself included. And we let them just do what they wanted to do in the first quarter."
Cleveland chipped away over the next two quarters, then Jones hit three 3-pointers as Cleveland outscored New Jersey 22-10 to open the fourth quarter, cutting the Nets' lead to 90-89 with 5:29 to play. The Cavs missed chances to take their first lead on the next two possessions, with Brown committing an offensive foul and James missing from the perimeter.
Harris made a layup and the Nets turned James' turnover into Nachbar's layup to build the lead back to five. Cleveland got within one again with 16 seconds left, but Marcus Williams made a free throw and Carter followed with four more.
Carter was one of six Nets in double figures, finishing with 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
"It was a really good team win," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "You look at all the guys who had assists and all the different guys who scored. Hopefully we can use this as the blueprint to how we're going to play."
- James has scored 37 or more points in five of his last six games and has seven 40-point games this season.
- James denied a report that he provided a ticket for 17-year-old Anthony Erskine, the fan who came onto the court to meet him last week at Madison Square Garden after James came out of a game against the Knicks. "That never happened. I don't know where that rumor started, I don't know where it came from," James said, adding he didn't even know if Erskine would be at the game.