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Nets Notebook: Avery Johnson pushing improvements

The Nets’ season is five games old, but that doesn’t matter much to Avery Johnson.

The Nets’ season is five games old, but that doesn’t matter much to Avery Johnson, who believes the Nets have room for improvement.

“Are we embracing some of our concepts? Are we doing a better job of knowing the individual strengths of our opponents? A little bit. But after five games — especially playing the same team twice — in a 48-hour period, we’re not there yet. We still have some work to do,” Johnson said in his pregame press conference Tuesday night at the Barclays Center.

Johnson stressed lead management as the primary concern.

“We’ve had two 20-point leads at home [but] we haven’t managed them well,” Johnson said. “We have to figure out a way to hold leads. Sometimes just having a lead early in the game and going away from the reason why you had those leads — whether it is tough defense, ball movement [or] setting good screens. We just have to do that more consistently.”

Not taking Cavs for granted

Prior to the season, the expectations for the Cavaliers were to be one of the NBA’s weaker teams. And entering last night’s game, the Cavs had a 2-5 record and were the league’s third-worst defensive team having allowed on average 103.4 points per game.

So did the Nets expect an easy night? Not quite.

“We’re not on a level where we can take anything or anybody for granted,” Johnson said. “We have to play as close to a full game as possible to win any of these games. For us, there’s a responsibility that goes along with it. It’s a greater level of responsibility. It’s what we all said where we wanted to be. Now we have to have the appropriate response. That is getting off to good starts, paying very close attention to detail and the game plan, and moving the ball on offense.”

The Cavs’ best player is second-year point guard Kyrie Irving, but Johnson pointed to the quartet of rookie guard Dion Waiters, reserve guard Daniel Gibson and big men Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao as players the Nets must neutralize.

“It’s not just Kyrie. Waiters is a good-looking young player; he can score. He can shoot the ball. He’s a good passer. Gibson is kind of in the same mold as what we saw in the last two games with [Orlando Magic guard J.J.] Redick. He runs all over the place; he can make threes,” Johnson said. “Their big guys inside, they gave us some problems last year with their physicality. If we’re not ready to put on our hard hats against Thompson and Varejao, then we’re going to be in trouble. We have to be physical with those guys. The worst thing we can do with this team is give them second shots.”


The Nets will serve Thanksgiving dinner today at St. John’s Bread and Life in Bedford-Stuyvesant. … The Nets starting five was named to the NBA’s All-Star ballot, the league announced earlier in the day. … Small forward Gerald Wallace and sixth man MarShon Brooks were inactive for the game. Both have been recuperating from left ankle sprains. Wallace hasn’t played since the season opener on Nov. 3 and Brooks has missed the last three games.

Follow Nets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.

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