Hands on his hips and gnawing on his mouthpiece, LeBron James wore a look of frustration as Jarrett Jack attempted a pair of free throws with a little more than two minutes left.

James certainly wasn't expecting this, not with the way the Cavaliers had handled the Nets this season and not with the home team's struggles at Barclays Center. But there were the shorthanded Nets, hanging tight with Cleveland.

They made all the necessary plays to pull out a 106-98 victory Friday night, winning for the fifth time in their past seven games and remaining a half-game behind the eighth-place Celtics in the Eastern Conference race.

"It's a huge win for us, man," said Deron Williams, who had five points, five assists, five steals and five turnovers and didn't play at all in the fourth quarter as Lionel Hollins went with Jarrett Jack down the stretch again. "We just got beat by them a couple of weeks ago, so it's definitely satisfying to come back and take care of business at them. We've talked about it a lot lately, what every game means to us. So this was a big win for us."

Joe Johnson had 20 points and nine assists and Brook Lopez added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Nets (31-40), who outscored Cleveland 27-19 in the fourth quarter.

The Nets never trailed in the final quarter and got an indication that this would be their night when Johnson raised up from 26 feet and hit a three-pointer. That gave the Nets, who had only one turnover in the quarter, a 101-93 lead with 2:56 left.

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Kyrie Irving had 26 points and James added 24 points, nine assists, five rebounds and five steals for the Cavs (47-27). "There's no excuses," James said. "That team over there played better than us tonight."

The Nets finish the season with eight of their final 11 games at home, where they are 13-20 this season. Said Lopez, "We've been getting better each game for six, seven games now. But we've responded, which is something we absolutely would not have done earlier in the season."

"This is a tough, top-tier NBA team that we played against tonight,'' said Jack, whose team faces the Lakers on Sunday, "and you tend to let your guard down when you play against a team who might not be playing for nothing, so to speak. So for us, we've just got to come in there and focus. This win means nothing if we go out there and kind of lay an egg on Sunday."

Notes & quotes: Looking to soften the blow of losing Thaddeus Young to a hyperextended left knee, the Nets signed forward Earl Clark to a 10-day contract Friday. He finished with seven points in 11:14. "I just tried to stay aggressive and not think too much," Clark said. "Just play basketball." Drafted 14th overall out of Louisville by the Suns in 2009, he has played for five teams in his NBA career, including a stint with the Knicks. He most recently suited up for the Chinese Basketball Association's Shandong Flaming Bulls, appearing in 19 games during the 2014-15 season and averaging 26.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in 32.9 minutes per contest. "We were looking around for somebody that could give us some offense by spreading the court and making shots," Hollins said. "He's tall and hopefully he will get some rebounds and block shots every now and then so we can keep playing the way we've been playing. I think Thaddeus has given us a little versatility and maybe he can continue to give us that versatility. But we'll just have to see how it goes."

That's the kind of effort they'll need more often as they finish the season with eight of their final 11 games at home -- a place they're just 13-20 this season -- and it's imperative they take care of business back here against the Lakers on Sunday. Now isn't the time for their trademark backstroke.

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"I just tried to stay aggressive and not think too much," Clark said. "Just play basketball." Drafted 14th overall out of Louisville by the Suns in 2009, Clark has played for five teams in his NBA career, which includes a stint with the Knicks. He most recently suited up for the Chinese Basketball Association's Shandong Flaming Bulls, appearing in 19 games during the 2014-15 season and averaging 26.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in 32.9 minutes per contest. "We were looking around for somebody that could give us some offense by spreading the court and making shots," Hollins said. "He's tall and hopefully he will get some rebounds and block shots every now and then, so we can keep playing the way we've been playing. I think Thaddeus has given us a little versatility and maybe he can continue to give us that versatility. But we'll just have to see how it goes."