Cavs pull away in middle quarters, top Nets

Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers took control in the second quarter, pulled away in the third and held on for a 115-109 victory over the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday night in New York.

The Cavaliers (46-28) won for the eighth time in 11 games by outscoring the Nets 71-48 in the second and third periods. Cleveland moved 3 1/2 games ahead of the New York Knicks, who sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Mitchell, who was held to 15 points in the first meeting with the Nets Dec. 26 in Cleveland, made 10 of 22 shots, including five of Cleveland’s 14 3-pointers.

Former Net Caris LeVert added 18 points, while Darius Garland and Evan Mobley contributed 17 apiece as the Cavaliers combined to shoot 57.4 percent from the field in the second and third and 50.6 percent overall.

The Nets (39-33) tied a season high with their fourth straight loss. Brooklyn dropped 2 1/2 games behind the Knicks and is a half-game ahead of the seventh-place Miami Heat in the race to avoid falling into play-in tournament contention.

Day’Ron Sharpe scored half of his team-high 20 points when the Nets made a late surge. Spencer Dinwiddie added 19 points and 11 assists, while Mikal Bridges contributed 18 points as the Nets shot 44.6 percent from the floor. The Nets missed 24 of 33 3-point tries, including all eight tries by Bridges.

Mitchell converted a three-point play just under two minutes into the third to give Cleveland its first double-digit lead at 66-55, and Garland’s layup extended the lead to 73-58 with 8:06 left. Cleveland continued dominating, opened an 84-60 lead on Mitchell’s fourth trey of the night with 6:16 remaining and held a 94-78 going into the fourth after LeVert’s triple beat the buzzer.

Brooklyn made a late comeback try and was within 114-109 when Sharpe hit a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left. However, Mitchell sank a late free throw to seal the victory.