Cleveland Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao, bottom, from Brazil, drives to the...

Cleveland Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao, bottom, from Brazil, drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets' Deron Williams, top, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) Credit: AP / Tony Dejak

Seeing the guy who's been the Nets' healthiest player limp to the locker room with a strained right calf conjured up a numbing sense of deja vu for Joe Johnson.

"It's not, 'Oh, no, here we go again,' " Johnson said. "It's kind of like we can't catch a break."

The Nets faced a doomsday scenario after losing Deron Williams in the second quarter: Already without the services of Brook Lopez, they were matching up with LeBron James on The King's court two days after the Cavaliers lost to the Hawks by 29 points.

Leave it to the Nets to defy logic, staying within arm's length until Kevin Garnett missed a potential tying three-pointer off a scramble with 2.8 seconds remaining. That foiled the Nets' comeback bid in a 95-91 loss to Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday night.

Just another typical day in the wacky land of Nets basketball.

James knocked the ball high in the air before Garnett was able to grab it. "I was just [like] come on, man. Come down!" Garnett said. "And I probably rushed it, knowing that I had pursuit on me . . . But on the road, against a good team, in their gym, coming down to the wire, shot for shot . . . You want the looks, you want the chances of putting yourself in position to win, and we had that chance."

Johnson had 26 points to lead the Nets (10-15), but he'll be thinking about his inability to catch the ball cleanly, which forced him to pass to Garnett.

Mason Plumlee added 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks for the Nets, who converted only 18 of 35 shots in the paint.

James had 22 points and nine assists for the Cavaliers (15-10). Mike Miller scored 21 points, shooting 7-for-8 from three-point range.

Williams' calf apparently was tight in the first quarter and got worse in the second. With the Nets leading 45-39, he threw a simple pass to Garnett in the paint, but he knew something was wrong when he landed. Williams asked out of the game and headed to the locker room with 4:40 remaining in the half. He never returned, and the Cavaliers rattled off a 15-4 run to grab a 54-49 edge at the break.

"I don't want to miss any games," Williams said. "I've missed enough the last couple of years, so I'm going to try to play all 82 if I can. I'm going to get the MRI tomorrow, see what it says, get a lot of treatment and hopefully be ready to go Sunday."

Johnson typically comes through in the clutch, but he didn't this time. Jarrett Jack delivered a pass to a wide-open Johnson at the top of the key, and he fumbled it with 8.2 seconds left. James tipped the ball high in the air and it landed in Garnett's clutches.

"It was kind of designed," Johnson said. "I knew I kind of wanted to start low and I think KG and Mason came and tried to set a double screen for me. I came up, tried to get a good look at it but . . . I just tried to make a play."

One that Garnett wasn't able to convert. He is 0-for-6 from beyond the arc in the past two seasons.

"Had a good look at it, something I work on every day," Garnett said. "It felt good when it left my hand. I just cut it short to the left."

Notes & quotes: Garnett said he communicated with former teammate Rajon Rondo after the Celtics traded Rondo to the Mavericks on Thursday. Rondo was Boston's last link to its 2008 championship team. "We've got an infamous group chat that's been going on for a long time now, for about, three, four months, and we were all on it yesterday," Garnett said. "He seemed happy. His family seems happy. He seemed very content. Very, very, very much to embrace his new opportunity. I guess it's the end of a great regime and a great era for all of us. And the only thing I care about is the players' and the guys' happiness. And so he seemed happy and so I'm happy.''

More Brooklyn Nets

Newsday LogoCritical LI Information You NeedDigital Access$1 for 5 months