Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
That was the case on Tuesday evening against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but this time, the Nets wouldn’t let it get too interesting.
Deron Williams finished with 26 points and 10 assists, Joe Johnson scored 16 of his 25 in the fourth quarter and the Nets pulled away late for a 114-101 win in front of 17.032 fans at Barclays Center.
The Nets did, however, allow the Cavs to shave a 24-point deficit down to 10 after three quarters.
For Johnson, the 25 points he scored is his Nets career-high, while the points-assists double-double for Williams is his second of the season.
For the Cavs, Anderson Varejao had a career-high 35 points to go along with 18 rebounds, while second-year point guard Kyrie Irving exploded for a career-high 34 points to go along with eight assists.
Irving, a New Jersey native, scored 26 of his 34 points in the game’s second half.
“We withstood their rush, we did a good job of keeping our composure,” Nets head coach Avery Johnson said. “It’s better to try and figure out how you can correct when you have a 20-point lead, rather than be 20 points down.”
Johnson finally gets going
Joe Johnson has had a bit of problem getting on track this season, averaging just 13.6 points per game while shooting 36.2 percent from the floor.
Both of those numbers are well below his career averages, but Tuesday evening’s second quarter may have shown that Johnson is finally seeing the light.
After a scoreless first quarter, Johnson scored nine points in the second and helped to spark the second unit en route to the Nets winning the second quarter, 35-12. As a result, the Nets led at halftime, 64-42.
Johnson, who is averaging 17.7 points for his career and has been one of the premier scorers in the Eastern Conference, shot 5-for-8 from the field and 3-for-6 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter to help the Nets pull away.
Johnson didn’t see the ball much in the third quarter and struggled from 3-point range throughout, but hit two deep bombs in a row midway through the fourth quarter to push the lead to 99-82.
Those shots, which ended an 0-for-13 start from deep for the team, helped put Irving and the Cavs away after they had gotten within 10 at 85-75 through three quarters.
“I understand why I was brought here, so to fill that void tonight and really get the crowd into it in that fourth quarter, we got a few stops and got some easy baskets,” Johnson said. “Being a shooter in this league, you can’t worry about your last shot, you’ve gotta worry about your next one and that’s what I tried to do in that fourth quarter.”
Varejao goes off, but Lopez hangs tough
Brook Lopez had his usually-efficient first quarter, scoring 11 points and shooting 5-for-6 from the field, but Varejao had no problem bettering that effort.
The ninth-year pro from Brazil scored 17 points, shot 7-for-8 and hauled in seven rebounds in the first quarter on his way to his 35 points.
The defense and rebounding are still lingering issues for Lopez, but he did finish with 23 points and seven rebounds, while shooting 10-for-14 from the field.
Tuesday evening marked the first time where Lopez, Williams and Johnson all had huge offensive nights at the same time as the trio accounted for nearly 65 percent of the Nets’ scoring.
The Nets scored 60 points in the paint on 30-for-40 shooting, but with Varejao leading the way, the Cavs had 64 in the paint on 32-for-59 shooting.
Kyrie vs. Deron
In terms of NBA point guards, Williams helps represent the present at the position, but Irving represents the future and their matchup on Tuesday did not disappoint.
Irving, the reigning Rookie of the Year and the league’s sixth leading scorer entering the night, scored 14 of his 34 points in the third quarter, including nine points over the final 4:17 of the period to help the Cavs get back into the game.
Irving was on the bench for the first 4:32 of the fourth quarter and by the time he came back in, the Nets had stretched the lead back 13 at 93-80.
Williams checked in at the same time as Irving and simply quarterbacked the Nets the rest of the way.
After the spirited matchup, Williams had nothing but praise for the 20-year-old Irving.
“He’s a great player, he’s so tough to guard, he’s got the ball on a string,” Williams said. “He’s quick and he can shoot the ball so well that you can’t just back off him, so he’s one of the tougher players to guard.”
Varejao’s 35 points are the most by a Nets opponent this season, surpassing the 28 Kyle Lowry scored for the Raptors in the season-opener back on Nov. 3….Varejao also registered the first 20/20 game against the Nets since Ersan Ilyasova of the Bucks went for 29 points and 25 rebounds on Feb. 19 of last season….Williams has led the Nets in assists in all six games this season. Entering Tuesday, he ranked 12th in the league in assists at 7.2 per game.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA.