Nets rout Cavaliers

New Jersey wins 10th straight; interim coach is 9-0

Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2004

CLEVELAND - New Jersey's interim coach has a permanent NBA record.

Not bad for a kid who couldn't even make his high school basketball team.

Lawrence Frank improved to 9-0 since taking over the Nets, who got 27 points from Kerry Kittles and won their 10th straight game Wednesday night, 105-85 over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Frank, a fresh-faced 33-year-old who doesn't look much older than some ballboys, tied the league mark for the best start as a coach shared by Kurt Rambis (Los Angeles Lakers, 1998-99) and Buddy Jeannette (Baltimore Bullets, 1947-48).

In less than three weeks on the job, Frank has been the perfect coach for the Nets - literally - and shares a record the game's icons would envy.

"Naismith, Wooden, all of them would be proud of him," Nets All-Star guard Jason Kidd said. "He doesn't like the attention, but the team is happy for him."

Kittles scored all his points in the second half for the Nets, who hate to the see the All-Star break arrive.

In addition to Frank remaining unbeaten since getting the job when Byron Scott was fired on Jan. 26, New Jersey (31-20) set or tied several records.

The Nets became just the second team in league history to win 10 straight games by more than 10 points, tying a mark set by the 1946-47 Washington Capitals coached by Red Auerbach.

New Jersey also tied a team mark with its fifth straight road win, and the Nets' 10-game winning streak is their second-longest ever. New Jersey won 11 in a row in 1982-83.

Underscoring their turnaround under Frank, the Nets became just the second team to follow a five-game losing streak by winning 10 in a row. The Denver Nuggets did that in 1977-78.

But the postgame focus was on Frank, who wasn't good enough to make his high school team in Teaneck, N.J., but is the talk of the town now.

"He's a leader," Kittles said. "Give him credit, he's pushing the right buttons. He comes up with a good game plan and we all feel comfortable going in."

The self-deprecating Frank said the Nets are responsible for his sublime start.

"The players deserve all the credit," he said.

Kidd added 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Kenyon Martin, who will also play for the Eastern Conference in this Sunday's game in Los Angeles, had 21 points.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 13 points and a season-high 17 rebounds to pace the Cavs, who hung with the Nets for nearly three quarters before Kittles and Kidd took them apart.

Rookie LeBron James had just nine points - his lowest output in 29 games - and shot only 2-of-13 in 29 minutes.

James looked and played tired. Cavs coach Paul Silas wants him to rest during the All-Star break, but that will be tough for him to do this weekend in Los Angeles, where he will be one of the main attractions.

"I'm going to get some (rest)," James said. "It's been a long season. It's been about as long as three of my high school seasons."

Earlier this week, James said he was still thinking about participating in the slam dunk contest. Now, he says he won't.

"I'm out! I'm out! I'm out!" he said. "No more questions about the dunk contest."

Eric Williams had 14 points and Juneau-Douglas High School alum Carlos Boozer had eight points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Cleveland.

Kittles missed his only field goal attempt in the first half, but scored 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the third quarter when the Nets outscored Cleveland 37-24.

Kittles drained a 3-pointer to kick off an 18-4 run that Richard Jefferson capped with a two-handed stuff as the Nets opened a 77-64 lead after three quarters.

Kittles stayed hot, hitting a 3-pointer to begin the fourth. Martin followed with another 3 and the Nets eventually built a 23-point lead before Frank emptied his bench.

"They're rolling," Boozer said. "They showed tonight why they're better than us right now."

The Nets didn't score for the first 4:48 of the second quarter as the Cavs opened a 12-point lead. However, Kidd scored 10 points - capped by a 3-pointer - as New Jersey went on a 16-2 tear to take a 32-30 lead with 4:01 remaining in the half.

Ilgauskas, who had 10 rebounds in the opening half, tipped in a miss in the final minute as Cleveland rallied to tie it 40-all at halftime.



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