As Jason Collins flushed a two-handed slam in garbage time, the final crowd-pleasing play on a night filled with many, the Nets' bench rose in unison, thrilled with what was transpiring.
The scene that's become familiar of late was playing out in front of them again and they couldn't have been any happier, particularly with the roller-coaster road trip they had just wrapped up.
Looking for a win to soothe their psyche after a pair of rough overtime losses to end that three-game trek, the Nets returned to their $1-billion Brooklyn digs and picked up right where they left off, doing precisely what was necessary to keep their hopes for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs alive.
Buoyed by a balanced scoring attack against a Cavaliers team missing star Kyrie Irving, the Nets ran past Cleveland, 108-97, Friday night, posting their 12th straight victory at home to match the second-longest home winning streak in the franchise's NBA history.
Paul Pierce got them off to a hot start, hitting his first four shots -- all three-pointers -- and scoring 17 first-quarter points to pace six players in double figures for the Nets (38-33).
"Once you knock down the first couple of shots, you feel like you're on fire," said Pierce, who had 22 points and attempted nothing but three-pointers, shooting 5-for-6 and nailing all seven free throws. "As a scorer -- I've been a scorer my whole life -- all you've got to see is one go in. You feel like all of them are going in. My teammates did a good job of moving the ball.
"It wasn't necessarily plays being run for me. We were aggressive on offense, penetrating and making the extra pass . . . Different guys are going to be the benefactor of that on different nights, and I was tonight."
Deron Williams had 13 points, five assists and a fast-break, no-doubt two-handed dunk that set the tone at the start of the third quarter. That early second-half surge aided in keeping the Nets, who got a rare chance to rest their starters for the fourth quarter, within 21/2 games of Toronto. They also climbed to within two games of the Bulls for the conference's fourth seed.
Unlike in their previous two games, when they were burned by taking a combined 75 three-pointers -- including a franchise-record 40 against the Pelicans -- the Nets connected on 14 of 29 attempts from beyond the arc. They drained 54.9 percent of their attempts from the field overall, though most of that production came outside the lane. Only 32 of their points were courtesy of buckets in the paint.
"Well, I think we got good looks in all the games," Williams said. "I just think we knocked down a little bit more tonight. They're definitely a team who shrinks the floor and gives open threes. We were able to take advantage of it."
In a game that featured a flurry of runs, the Nets got the better of Cleveland whenever things got a little tight. Sparked by Pierce, who scored 14 of their first 17 points, the Nets raced to an 11-point edge, only to see the Cavs close the quarter with a 15-4 spurt to square it at 29 heading into the second quarter.
But they essentially regained control for good in the second quarter on the strength of a 20-6 run that helped them sustain a lead as large as 17 points before settling for a 61-50 advantage at halftime. They bounced back strongly from their road trip's brutal conclusion.
"I don't think our psyche really changed," Pierce said. "We were disappointed. We felt like we should've won all three of those games. Three games that were in overtime. We felt like we let the New Orleans game slip away. We felt like Charlotte was a game that we should've won. So our psyche, it wasn't broken. Just coming home, we had the same mentality as going into those games. But on the flip side, we wanted to make sure we took care of business at home."
Notes & quotes: Kevin Garnett (back spasms) missed his 15th straight game and Jason Kidd downplayed any need for the veteran to play some in the regular season before the playoffs. "He's played this game. It doesn't change," Kidd said. "If he gets to play before the playoffs, that would be great. If he gets to practice before the playoffs, that would be great. And if he had no practice or no games, for him being on the floor that would help us dramatically. However we look at it, him playing in the playoffs would help us, and game shape, for him, he plays at a high level, so he's going to get tired no matter what." . . . Jorge Gutierrez, who was fined $15,000 by the league Friday for his flagrant 2 foul on Bobcats forward Cody Zeller Wednesday night, was signed to a two-year deal. Gutierrez said his contract for next season is non-guaranteed . . . Andrei Kirilenko (sprained left ankle) missed his third straight game . . . Marcus Thornton returned after missing Wednesday night's game with a bruised lower back and scored 10 points in 21:43.