CLEVELAND — The shorthanded Nets were running on fumes with all of their starters having played 33 minutes in the second game of a back-to-back. They had lost a nine-point lead in the final two minutes and faced the prospect of overtime, the last thing they wanted.
Spencer Dinwiddie spared them further agony. His 20-foot jumper from above the key with 1.8 seconds left gave the Nets a 108-106 victory over the Cavaliers on Monday night at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
It was the fourth straight victory for the Nets (9-8), who climbed over the .500 mark for the first time this season and are 5-1 without injured Kyrie Irving.
Dinwiddie led the Nets with 23 points, his career-high sixth straight with at least 20. Jarrett Allen had 22 points and 21 rebounds, Joe Harris added 19 points and Taurean Prince scored 18.
Jordan Clarkson topped the Cavaliers (5-12) with 23 points. Larry Nance Jr. added 20 points and 13 rebounds and Collin Sexton scored 19.
When former Cav Iman Shumpert connected on a corner three just before the end of the third period, it gave the Nets their biggest lead at 81-75, and they extended it to eight points. But the Cavs responded with a 9-0 run to take an 84-83 lead.
The Nets went ahead 106-97, their biggest lead of the game, when Prince sank a three-pointer at the 2:11 mark.
Clarkson scored five points in a 9-0 run, though, and the Cavaliers tied the score at 106 when Sexton made the first of two foul shots with 21.5 seconds left.
That was where it became a matter of the Nets pitting their will against the Cavaliers. Sexton missed the next free throw, but the Cavs retained possession, setting up a baseline floater for Clarkson that Allen rose up to reject.
“I should have kept it inbounds,” he said. “I got a little excited and threw it out of bounds. If I would have tipped it up, I could have grabbed it and we could have got the possession.”
The Cavs had just over two seconds left on the shot clock when Sexton attempted a long jumper that Dinwiddie blocked, and Allen got to the loose ball before the Nets called timeout with 6.2 seconds remaining.
Coach Kenny Atkinson set up a play for Dinwiddie, but we’ll never know what it was because he didn’t run it.
“I was really just trying to get a shot up in the first three seconds so Jay had a chance to tip it back in,” Dinwiddie said. “Kenny had drawn up a great play, and I mean, I didn’t run it because I was trying to get something really quick, just in case, so we would have a chance . . . Solid look in a quick amount of time and get to a place where I feel really comfortable. Analytics are off at that point.”
Dinwiddie’s shot hit nothing but net with 1.8 seconds showing, and the Cavs couldn’t get off another shot. That was a good thing for the exhausted Nets.
Asked if it felt as though they were running out of gas when they blew a lead that looked secure, Allen said, “For sure, it was a little bit of running on fumes. We were all tired from the game before. Now we all had to play hard and the last couple minutes are probably the hardest part of the game. At the end, we just had to play with whatever you were dealt.”
Besides Irving, the Nets were without Caris LeVert (right thumb surgery) and DeAndre Jordan (left ankle soreness), but Dinwiddie and Allen delivered in the clutch.
“That man had 20 and 20,” Dinwiddie said of Allen. “He won us the game. If we don’t have his block, if we don’t have his rebounds, he’s the one who got the loose ball when I blocked Sexton’s shot. This is all J.A. He won us the game. I was just fortunate to hit the shot.”