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It looked as if the injury-plagued New Jersey

By Ken BergerAssociated Press Published: November 17, 1997 12:00 AM

It looked as if the injury-plagued New Jersey Nets had another long night ahead of them.

But, as Williams said, "These are not the old New Jersey Nets. These are the NEW New Jersey Nets."

Translation: They won.

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Sherman Douglas scored 25 points and Kerry Kittles 23 as New Jersey beat the Cavaliers 77-72 Sunday night in front of the smallest NBA crowd in Cleveland since 1992.

"When I got out of bed, I was really dizzy," said Cassell, who sat out the first half while trying to recover from the flu. "I felt like a dog. They called the doctor, and he said they should give me an IV and maybe I'd get a boost. It wasn't a boost, but it was enough."

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Though he was 0-for-7 from the field, Cassell seemed to give the poor-shooting Nets an emotional lift when he came into the game in the third quarter.

"I knew my energy level wouldn't be high," Cassell said. "They told me to just go in there and try to spark us."

With Cassell on the bench for half the game, Douglas and Kittles outscored Cleveland's starting backcourt 48-12. Douglas, acquired by Cleveland this off-season but quickly traded, lit up his former team with 10-for-19 shooting.

The performance earned praise from Williams, who is pushing Douglas for the Charlie Hayes look-alike award.

"Everybody says Charlie Hayes can't shoot," said Williams, referring to the former New York Yankees third baseman who shares a resemblance with Douglas. "Well, he can."

With the Nets shooting 32 percent from the field, there was ample opportunity for Williams to add to his league-leading rebounding average. He pulled down 16 despite a sore right leg.

"I thought my leg was broke, that's how much it hurt," Williams said. "But the X-rays showed that it was OK, so I played."

As for Cleveland, fans are apparently not buying into these new Cavaliers just yet. Only 12,860 showed up on a cold, miserable night near Lake Erie _ the smallest crowd at Gund Arena since it opened in 1994.

And even though they thoroughly beat the Chicago Bulls in their last home game, this performance showed that Shawn Kemp and the gang still have a ways to go.

Kemp, who totaled 18 points in his previous two games, had 14 points and 11 rebounds and played the final eight minutes with five fouls. Brevin Knight and Derek Anderson, two rookies starting in the Cavs' backcourt, combined for 12 points.

"I think we're playing good enough defense to win games," said Wesley Person, who had 14 points. "Offensively, we're killing ourselves right now."

Kemp, acquired in the three-way trade with Seattle and Milwaukee, dressed quickly and left the building without doing interviews.

New Jersey led 40-35 at halftime. But Cleveland started the third quarter with a 9-0 run, and extended it to 14-2 on a dunk by Kemp that made it 49-42. Kittles scored eight points in seven minutes as the Nets took a 66-62 lead with 5:06 left, then put the Nets up 73-68 with an 18-footer with 1:35 to play.

Cleveland had a chance when Anderson sank two free throws to make it 74-72 with 14.9 seconds remaining, but Cassell sank two foul shots and Douglas added one to close it out.

It was Cleveland's smallest crowd since 12,342 watched the Cavs play Houston at Richfield Coliseum on Dec. 15, 1992. The few who showed up may have been sorry they did. Fans sat idle and quiet as the teams shot 38 percent from the field in the first half. The preeminent sounds were groans from the crowd and swishes when Douglas touched the ball.

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