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The Nets didn't blow a 22-point lead in the final minutes this time.
They came fairly close, allowing the Cavs back within 10 after putting Cleveland down 22 points at halftime, but they recovered in time to pull back away for a 114-101 win at home on Tuesday night. The win showed off the very best of what the Nets hope to be this season.
Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams combined for 74 points to lead the team offensively in a performance that illustrated how well the trio can work together this season. Johnson and Williams still don't look entirely comfortable playing next to one another, but they are figuring that out and dominating the offense when the other player is out of the game.
Johnson's best moments came in stretches when C.J. Watson was on the floor with him and Johnson particularly tore up the Cavs' second unit in the second quarter as the Nets built up the big lead they'd eventually hold onto at the final buzzer. Lopez, meanwhile, displayed a soft touch around the hoop all night and finished plenty of nice feeds into the post from his teammates.
That's exactly the scenario the Nets envisioned when they put the three players, who shot 29-of-50 from the floor, together this offseason. In short, they were the offensive team we thought they were.
Unfortunately, they are also the defensive team we thought they were. Anderson Varejao rendered Lopez' big offensive night meaningless with a career-high 35 points and 18 rebounds while Kyrie Irving took some of the joy out of the guards' play by scoring a career-high 34 of his own.
That left Johnson as the only one of the Nets' lead trio with a positive plus/minus at the end of the night as the Cleveland starters outscored the Nets' starters 95-86 overall over the course of the evening. The Nets ultimately won because they got a big game from Andray Blatche off the bench while the Cavs have a reserve unit that is as bad or worse as anything the Nets ever had when they played in East Rutherford.
Needless to say, Blatche isn't a reliable source of anything other than chuckle-worthy play and the Nets aren't going to shoot 54.5 percent every night. Varejao had only topped 20 points five other times in his career before Tuesday night, but he looked like Karl Malone against Lopez and Kris Humphries.
Gerald Wallace's return will only help the defense so much and teams that actually have more than a handful of NBA-quality players will not be so easily put to sleep by the Nets' excellent offensive attack. Teams don't win in the NBA without playing at least league average defense and the Nets have some work to do to get themselves to that level.