October 23, 2014

Elyria
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Nets 114, Cavaliers 101: Varejao, Irving can’t carry Cavs

NEW YORK — Brooklyn’s Backcourt broke out.

Deron Williams had 26 points and 10 assists, Joe Johnson scored 25 points, and the Nets beat the road-weary Cleveland Cavaliers 114-101 on Tuesday night for their third straight victory.

Expected to be one of the league’s best guard tandems, Williams and Johnson are still trying to find their way together in a new home on a rebuilt team. They know games such as this one are expected, and both said they can be delivered regularly.

“It’s probably the best game that we’ve had together,” Johnson said. “It’s still early in the season, but yeah, I’m sure that’s the vision everybody had, that’s the vision I had and I’m sure this won’t be the last (big) game. Like I say man, we’re just figuring things out.”

Brook Lopez added 23 points for the Nets, who opened a 20-point lead at home for the third straight game, but this time barely let up and beat the Cavaliers for the sixth time in eight meetings after losing nine in a row, mostly during the LeBron James era.

Anderson Varejao scored a career-high 35 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who were wrapping up a six-game, coast-to-coast trip and played much of the game with the urgency of a team that wanted to be home.

They haven’t played there since Nov. 2, their second game of the season, and dropped the final four games of the trip to finish 1-5.

Williams and Johnson, perennial All-Stars who have been nicknamed “Brooklyn’s Backcourt,” put things together for the first time since the Nets acquired Johnson from Atlanta over the summer. Neither had a 20-point game before Tuesday, and Johnson had been shooting only 36.2 percent.

Williams shot 10 of 20, and Johnson was 9 of 16 while adding six assists and five rebounds.

“It definitely felt like we played better together today and like I said, we both got going today which was good, so hopefully we can continue to make improvements,” Williams said. “Me and him have been talking a lot the last couple of days trying to get each other going and find out where, you know, our spots are on the court.”

The Nets held Orlando below 20 points in a franchise-record seven straight quarters during a home-and-home sweep and were allowing 90.4 points per game, fourth-best in the NBA. But the offense had been spotty, particularly once they got ahead. They blew a 22-point lead last week in a loss to Minnesota and most of a 20-point advantage Sunday against the Magic.

This time, there was no letup, in part because they just ran by a Cleveland team that didn’t have its legs. Brooklyn finished with a 23-8 advantage in fast-break points.

Kyrie Irving had 34 points and eight assists for Cleveland, which started its trip Nov. 3 in Milwaukee, went out to California for two stops, then hit Phoenix and Oklahoma City before wrapping up here. Cavaliers coach Byron Scott told his players Tuesday morning not to let their minds drift to thoughts about being back home, but their defense never showed up in Brooklyn.

“I don’t want to talk about the defense. There was nothing there defensively,” Scott said. “We’ve got to get more guys that are going to be competitive and passionate about the defensive end.”

Cleveland led after one only because Varejao shot 7 of 8 for 17 points, his highest total in an NBA quarter, helping the Cavs to a 30-29 edge. But the Nets had already started blowing it open by the time he returned a little more than four minutes into the second.

He quickly scored upon re-entering, but the Nets responded with an 8-2 run to open a 48-34 lead. It was 64-42 by halftime. Brooklyn shot 62 percent in the second while holding Cleveland to 5 of 20 (25 percent) and outscoring the Cavs 35-12.

“They hit us in the mouth on both ends of the floor. We weren’t executing. We got in a hole and it’s hard to fight back against a good team such as Brooklyn,” Irving said.

Rookie Dion Waiters missed his first eight shots, then threw up his arms as if to say “finally” when his 3-pointer popped out of the basket and then back in for his first field goal nearly midway through the third. Then it was Varejao’s turn to look annoyed, tossing the ball off the backboard stanchion after Lopez beat the Cavs down the floor for a layup that made it 77-53 with 5:16 remaining in the third.

The Cavs finally made a dent late in the third, with Irving scoring 14 points in the period to trim it to 85-75. But he and Varejao started the fourth on the bench as Brooklyn quickly regained control. The Nets reopened a big cushion when Johnson hit two 3-pointers and three free throws in a nine-point flurry over 85 seconds midway through the period.

NOTES: Scott led the Nets to their greatest NBA success, trips to the NBA Finals in 2002 and ‘03 while compiling a 149-139 record from 2000-04. He remembered the move to Brooklyn being discussed when he was there, though delays and lawsuits held up plans to relocate sooner. … Varejao’s previous best quarter was 14 points in the second period against Orlando on Feb. 11, 2010, according to STATS LLC. … Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, a frequent spectator at Knicks games, sat courtside.