EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Delving deep into 1980s nostalgia, Kevin Garnett used an analogy that many in their upper 30s can appreciate, harking back to the days of after-school cartoons on network television.
He compared the Nets to the series depicting a machine that battled evil. Five lions -- or vehicles, in the second variation -- merged to form a massive robot that defended the universe.
"When the head of 'Voltron' is at its best," Garnett said after practice Saturday, "man, it's very hard to deal with us."
That, in Garnett-isms, was his way of describing the importance of the Nets' starting backcourt clicking and igniting the team's offense.
Intertwining the talents of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson has been ongoing since the Nets' inaugural campaign in Brooklyn last season, and a newfound comfort level has developed between the two.
Their backcourt play is a huge reason the Nets hold a 2-1 edge in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series, which resumes with Game 4 at Barclays Center Sunday night.
There have been flashes in the past, but never this kind of sustained success together in the same game. Dating to Williams' shuffling in and out of the lineup with troublesome ankle injuries that he didn't totally put behind him until he had platelet-rich plasma therapy and received injections in January, there have been many times when they weren't in sync. Johnson believes they "never really developed chemistry, I'd say, until about February or March."
Now, however, they've settled into a rhythm.
After scoring at least 20 points in the same game only twice in 62 regular-season contests, they've already matched that total through the first three games of the series.
"It's grown in a lot of ways, us really learning how to play with one another, knowing each other's sweet spots," said Johnson, who's averaging 23.7 points and 40 minutes per game and shooting 60.5 percent in the series. "With both of us being pretty capable of being spot-up shooters, that plays a big advantage in our hands. Sometimes we can really get in the paint and make plays.
"At this point in the playoffs, we've just been aggressive, man. We know we have to lead this team in the right direction and we've just been aggressive."
In averaging 20.3 points and 5.3 assists during the last week against the Raptors, Williams has been exceptional in many facets. From an ankle-breaking crossover to a nifty pass setting up a teammate, he's matching his backcourt mate's level.
"I think we have a great chemistry together," Williams said. "I think we're assisting on a lot of each other's baskets. We know where each other is going to be on the court. On this team, we've been playing the longest together. So we definitely enjoy playing -- I enjoy playing with him and I feel like he enjoys playing with me and we kind of feed off each other."
Said Garnett, "With J-Kidd being here along with Paul and myself . . . the three of us have stated repeated that it's important for them two to have a chemistry, for them two to have some type of alliance, drew plays up for them, [and to] kind of interact has kind of helped not only their relationship but also their play . . . I see the growth in just this year alone. That's on offense and defense, sharing the ball, communication between the two and having them understanding that as well as they go, the team goes."