By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It took 36 NBA seasons, but only one in our fair borough, for the Nets to become a winning road team.
Brooklyn capped its epic eight-game, 17-day sojourn across several time zones with Wednesday night's easy 113-95 rout of the hapless Cavaliers before 14,863 fans at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, clinching its franchise-record 21st road triumph and the first plus-.500 mark away from home since entering the NBA in 1976.
''That's really significant,'' said Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, who should get some Coach of the Year consideration after guiding Brooklyn to the playoffs for the first time in six years after taking over for Avery Johnson in late December.
''I'm really proud of them. They deserve it. That's a hell of a job," added Carlesimo, who was able to pull his starters for most of the fourth quarter after squashing the Cavs, losers of 10 straight, before intermission.
MarShon Brooks scored a career-high 27 points on nearly flawless shooting, Deron Williams soared to his first dunk of the season, veteran Jerry Stackhouse rose over two defenders for another emphatic slam and the Nets hit an unfathomable 83 percent of their field-goal attempts in the second quarter en route to a 30-point halftime cushion.
''I would have taken a one-point [win], no questions asked when the game started,'' Carlesimo said as his team got ready to return to the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, where they'll play five of their final eight regular-season games, hoping to secure the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the opening-round of the playoffs.
''To get a win where we were able to rest guys, you probably couldn't have written a better script.''
Still-injured shooting guard Joe Johnson (quadriceps, heel) and forward Gerald Wallace (heel) took the night off, but it hardly mattered as Brooks, starting in place of "Big Shot Joe", drilled each of his first 10 attempts before finishing a gaudy 12-of-16 from the floor. C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche combined for 23 bench points and All-Star center Brook Lopez put up 14 points in 26 minutes before taking the rest of the night off.
"It was huge," Brooks said of the most prolific effort of his two-year NBA career. "These last [eight] games are huge for us because everything is so tight in the East. As you guys saw, my shot was just falling today. I was attacking the rim and trying to make the easy play."
Though things aren't so tight in the Atlantic Division race anymore -- Brooklyn is five full lengths behind the streaking first-place Knicks -- the Nets hold a two-game lead on Atlanta and sit 2 1/2 in front of the visiting Bulls for the coveted fourth seed.
With league-worst Charlotte slated to hit the Barclays Center's herrinbone-design floor on Saturday, the Nets have a chance to put a stranglehold on opening the postseason at home on this three-game homestand, which concludes Tuesday against Philadelphia.
Williams, who has literally sprung to life after meandering through the first half of the campaign with a myriad of injuries, had 24 points and eight assists against the Cavs. His driving slam accentuated a workmanlike 5-3 trip for Brooklyn, which can still add to its record-setting road mark during next week's three-game trek through Boston, Indiana and Toronto.
"Now I've got a dunk on the season," Williams jibed, admitting that watching the 38-year-old Stackhouse go high-wire was his inspiration for taking it hard to the rack.
No longer an afterthought on the New York sporting landscape, the Nets will have an opportunity later this month to make a truly historic impact on their first season here in Brooklyn by vying for the franchise's first-ever NBA Championship.
Hoop du Jour: With Johnson expected back at some point during this homestand, possibly as early as Thursday night, and Williams playing his best basketball of the season after inking a $98 million deal this past summer, the Nets might finally have "the best backcourt in the NBA", as general manager Billy King dubbed them, ready to roll in time for the postseason. Johnson has missed the last five games, watching the Nets go 3-2 during that stretch. ... Brooklyn's 43 wins overall thus far this season are the team's most since the New Jersey Nets won 49 games during the 2005-06 season. ... F Reggie Evans ripped down 18 rebounds in 27 minutes against Cleveland, upping his league-leading rebounds-per-48-minutes average to 21.3. ... Ironically, the only Nets coach to lead the team to the NBA Finals, Byron Scott, was on the opposing bench Wednesday night, watching helplessly as his former team abused his current squad. Scott, whose job is reportedly in limbo, revealed his disgust following the Cavs' latest lackluster effort. ''I'm disappointed,'' told the Associated Press. ''I really am. ... We just didn't show any life. The energy, the effort wasn't there - for whatever reason.'' Scott, the winner of three NBA titles as a player with the Magic Johnson-led 1980s Lakers, led New Jersey to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002-03, only to lose to the Lakers and Spurs. He was fired during the '03-04 season despite having the Nets in first place in the Atlantic Division at the time. ... The 2005-06 Nets set the previous mark for road victories with 20.