LOS ANGELES • All teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA) are eager to beat the Brooklyn Nets, now that they have acquired James Harden to form a star trio with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
That was the assessment of their coach Steve Nash, after Collin Sexton carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to their second straight win over the Nets on Friday.
The guard scored 25 points and dished out nine assists in a 125-113 win, just two nights after posting a career high of 42 points against the same Brooklyn team.
Sexton once again outshone Harden and Irving, just as he did in the Cavs' thrilling 147-135 double overtime victory on Wednesday.
"I don't want to overreact, but we need the guys to clean things up because we underperformed in two games," Nash said.
"People are excited to play against our team and will bring it every night. I feel like we need a little more and we have to take more pride in what we're doing."
Cleveland dominated the paint and seized control in the third quarter by exploiting the Nets' porous defence to record their third straight victory to improve to 8-7.
Sexton scored eight points in the third quarter, when Cleveland outscored the Nets 37-24 and forced eight turnovers.
Andre Drummond posted his 13th double-double with 19 points and 16 rebounds. Larry Nance added 15.
Former Net Taurean Prince tallied 14 for the Cavaliers, who outrebounded the Nets 50-29 at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse arena in Cleveland.
"When we're a whole, healthy team, we're very tough to beat," Drummond said. "These were great games for us. We have all the tools to be a great team."
0 for 2 The Nets' record since Kyrie Irving's return to the team.
Irving scored 38 points in his second game after a two-week absence, while Harden had 19 points and had 11 assists.
Brooklyn could have used Durant, who did not play because the team wanted to give him a rest as he continues his comeback from right Achilles tendon surgery.
The Nets (9-8) shot 48 per cent from the field and made just 14 of 43 three-point attempts.
"Our problem isn't offence. We're not worried at all about offence. It's our defence," said Harden.
Elsewhere, Joel Embiid scored 38 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Boston Celtics 122-110 at home.
The Sixers beat the Celtics for the second straight game, thanks to Tobias Harris' 23 points.
Seth Curry returned from missing seven games due to coronavirus protocols and scored 15 points for Philadelphia, who improved to 11-5. Ben Simmons also had 15 points and added 11 assists.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics (8-6), matching his career high of 42 points to go along with nine rebounds, while Marcus Smart added 20 points and seven assists.
Also, Luka Doncic finished just shy of a triple double with 36 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds to power the Dallas Mavericks (8-7) to a 122-117 victory over the San Antonio Spurs (8-8).
In Los Angeles, Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points and Paul George added 29 as the Los Angeles Clippers (12-4) won their sixth straight game with a 120-106 triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder (6-8).