The Skinny: Cleveland big men Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson were unstoppable in the paint to start the game. But once Thompson went to the bench with two fouls, Brook Lopez was able to rack up points in the paint. The Cavs led after the first quarter fueled by 17 points from Varejao. Once again, the Nets’ second unit played tremendous defense in the second quarter. An 11-1 Nets run, led by scoring from Joe Johnson and great energy play from Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche, helped Brooklyn outscore Cleveland 35-12 in the second and build a 22-point lead at halftime. The Nets kept up the intensity early in the third quarter, but the Cavs, mainly Kyrie Irving, finally found their stroke from the outside. A 9-0 Cleveland run to close out the quarter cut the deficit to 10. Johnson again began heating up with the second unit in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points in a five-minute span. The Cavs had a few mini-runs but really never got to within 10 as time expired.
High Scorers: Varejao set a new career-high by scoring 35 points and had a double-double by adding 18 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive glass. Deron Williams led the Nets with 26 points and also dished out a game-high 10 assists for the double-double.
Key Stats: The Nets shot 58 percent from the field in the first half and 55 percent total for the game. Other than Varejao and Irving who shot a combined 25-of-40 from the field, the Cavs collectively shot just 13-of-47 (27.7 percent).
Who Was Hot: After a slow start, Irving set a new career-high with 34 points on 9-of-19 shooting and had eight assists. For the Nets, Johnson had a statement game, shooting 9-of-16 from the field for 26 points and added six assists and four rebounds. Lopez connected on 10-of-14 shooting for 23 points, pulled down seven boards and blocked four shots. Blatche turned in a solid effort off the bench with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and five rebounds in 19:13.
Who Was Not: C.J. Watson had a poor shooting performance for Brooklyn, hitting on just two of his seven shots for seven points. Cleveland rookie Dion Waiters scored eight points but shot 3-of-16 from the field.
Fun Fact: Lopez has been dominant in first quarters this season. Through six games, he’s averaged 8.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and a 71.4 shooting percentage in the game’s opening quarter.
The Nets have shown that they can be dominant in the first half, again scoring 60 points and shooting lights out from the field.
The intensity seemed to be there to start the second half, but the theme of allowing the opponent to climb back into the game reared its ugly head once again.
In the end, Brooklyn hung on for the win, and it actually never got to the point of being a very close game.
We saw in this contest how clutch a scorer Joe Johnson can be. When he gets hot, there’s no stopping him from the perimeter. We may look back at this performance as the game that got him going after a slow start.
So the Nets have now won three straight games, but these wins have come against teams in the Magic and Cavaliers not expected to do much this season. Still, these are the must-win games, and that’s what the Nets did.
Brooklyn (4-2) will close out its homestand by facing the Atlantic Division rival Boston Celtics Thursday night at Barclays Center. The 8 p.m. game will be nationally televised on TNT.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.