Avery Johnson can be a bit of a control freak with Brooklyn

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Avery Johnson won a lot of games as the coach of the Dallas Mavericks, but things were done his way, his style of play with defense and a slow-it-down, controlled offense. Dirk Nowitzki referred to it as a dictatorship.

Things have not changed much, just the venue.

The Brooklyn Nets are winning a lot of games but doing it Johnson’s way. He calls the plays, he sets the tone. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News got Deron Williams — the kind of point guard a lot of coaches would give some freedom — to talk about it.

“At times, he likes to micro-manage the game.”

Not all players like that, go ask Devin Harris.

Williams admits he has some latitude — but like a parent dealing with a teenager, allowing some freedoms has to come with them maintaining other responsibilities.

As Williams says, “he’s not always going to agree, but he’s going to listen.” Johnson let the offense flow against the Thunder. Williams benefited on one end while the defense crumbled. For some reason the Nets were suckered into Oklahoma City’s preferred style of play, attempting to run up and down with a team more adept at such entertaining basketball.

After a rough first weeks of the season the Nets had been playing pretty good defense up until Tuesday night. And so you can expect Johnson to rein his team in a little. Try to get them to focus on defense.

But this is a back-and-forth, push-and-pull thing that could get interesting late in the season and into the playoffs, when the competitive Williams will want more.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.