Deron Williams keeps the ball in bounds during a preseason...

Deron Williams keeps the ball in bounds during a preseason game against the Boston Celtics at the Barclays Center. (Oct. 18, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Nets coach Avery Johnson likened Thursday night's 115-85 preseason loss to the Celtics to someone moving in on a new street hoping to prove his mettle, only to see the long-standing champ demonstrate who's the boss.

Johnson thought Kevin Garnett's lofty praise from earlier in the week -- when Garnett said the Nets will be a team to be reckoned with -- was a straight setup and believes Garnett & Co. were all about delivering a missive to a team garnering tons of national attention.

"If there is some supposed new kid on the block, you know how it is," Johnson said. "You want to show that it's your neighborhood and we have to earn everything and that's the message this year. No matter what documentaries or what books are being written about us this year, everybody is not excited. Everybody is not impressed. So we are going to have to really play."

After winning their first three preseason games and looking good doing it, the Nets were flat in essentially all areas, giving a Barclays Center crowd of 14,192 few reasons to cheer. Virtually nothing went well for them from the opening tip, and the preseason debut of MarShon Brooks, who had been nursing tendinitis in his right foot, did nothing to liven them up.

The Nets watched the Celtics score the game's initial nine points, thanks in part to their own turnovers, and couldn't hit a shot. They made only three of their first 16 attempts and threw the ball away 11 times overall.

The Nets were atrocious defensively, allowing the Celtics to shoot 56.5 percent from the field, including 57.9 from three-point range.

Boston, which led by as many as 30 points, got wide-open shots from the perimeter and down low, scoring 34 first-half points in the paint. Johnson wants his team to finish in the Top 10 defensively, and those numbers certainly aren't going to cut it.

"They came out and hit us," Joe Johnson said. "We had early turnovers. That hasn't been like us, so to speak. But yeah, you can definitely tell they wanted to come out and set the tone and deliver a message. Put it on us starters. They came out and got off to a 9-zip lead and really never looked back.

"We were just a little lackadaisical with the basketball, a few turnovers, and it became a chain reaction. But if you ask me, it was necessary.We needed that. Preseason has been kind of a breeze a little bit, but it just shows that we have a lot more room to improve."

Said Kris Humphries, "This is a big stage and people are coming in trying to prove a point. There's been a lot of hype with what kind of team we are supposed to be, and everyone wants to come in and establish themselves. So we have to keep working. It's not about what we are supposed to be. It's about what we'll become and what we work for. That's where we are at. It's preseason still and we've got to keep working."

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