With a chance to move into a tie atop the Atlantic Division, the Brooklyn Nets seemed to lose their clutch starting shooting guard at the wrong time.
A four-game winning streak put Brooklyn (33-24) in position to finally catch rival New York for first place in the Atlantic with a victory on Friday. The Nets, however, couldn't take advantage of their opportunity, losing 106-96 to Houston while playing without Johnson for the first time because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
Johnson has a league-best 23 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the last 24 seconds of a final quarter with the game within three points. Brooklyn certainly missed its second-leading scorer (17.0 ppg) on Sunday when it failed to score in the last 2:50, and a five-point lead turned into a 76-72 loss to Memphis.
"It's hard for me sitting here and watching," Johnson said. "You always can look at a game and think, 'I could have made a difference in that game'."
Now back to two full games behind the Knicks, the Nets may need the veteran down the stretch against a New Orleans team that has won seven of 11 at home. Johnson will be a game-time decision on Tuesday.
"We'll see how it feels and we'll go from there," he said.
The Hornets' Anthony Davis appeared to be fine on Sunday, just two days after leaving a loss to Dallas with a knee injury. The 2012 first overall pick led the way with 20 points and eight rebounds in a 110-95 win over Sacramento that stopped a three-game losing streak.
"You got a little taste of what (Davis) can do every night,'' said Ryan Anderson, who added 17 points. "He's learning, still learning as a player how he can be most effective."
Davis has been especially good at home lately, averaging 16.5 points and 10.0 boards in his last four in New Orleans.
Eric Gordon has scored 20.0 per game in his last three at home after finishing with 17 and a season-high eight assists on Sunday.
The Hornets (20-37) averaged just 87.8 points in their first 18 home games, but have improved to 100.1 in their last nine.
Brooklyn has won three of four on the road despite averaging 88.3 points on 38.4 percent shooting in those games.
If Johnson is unable to play, C.J. Watson is likely to get his third straight start in the backcourt. Watson has averaged 16.2 points while shooting 15 for 24 from 3-point range over his last five games.
Deron Williams, who led the Nets with 24 points on Sunday, practiced with a compression sleeve on Monday and appears ready to play despite getting kicked in the calf late in the game.
Brook Lopez, though, looks to bounce back after getting benched for the final quarter against the Grizzlies. Lopez, the team's leading scorer (18.7 ppg), shot 3 of 10 and was held to nine points for the second time in three games. Coach P.J. Carlesimo said that backup Andray Blatche "was playing better on both ends and was playing good defense''.
The Nets have lost four straight in New Orleans and seven of nine overall in the series.