Nets-Trail Blazers Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers are running out of time to make up ground in the Western Conference playoff race, and their remaining schedule features teams either currently in postseason position or battling for it like themselves.
Portland (33-37) is in 11th place in the conference and trails the Los Angeles Lakers by 2 1/2 games with 12 remaining for the West's final playoff spot. The Blazers finished their a 2-3 road trip after falling 103-83 at Oklahoma City on Sunday.
Coach Terry Stotts was pleased with the effort given the difficult trip, though he knows his team has a tough road ahead to qualify for the postseason.
''It was our fifth game in seven nights and we just didn't have it at the end," Stotts said. "I don't think that the final score is indicative of how the game went.''
Fatigue may have resulted in Portland's 40.5 field goal percentage and lowest point total since a 99-63 loss at New Orleans on Feb. 13.
"To shoot a good percentage, you have to get some easy baskets," Stotts said. "We didn't have many of those."
Things likely will be just as tough for the Blazers down the stretch. They face ninth-place Utah on Friday and Monday and also have matchups with 10th-place Dallas and the Lakers.
Seven contests will be against teams currently holding playoff spots in the West and another is this matchup with the Nets, who have clinched their first postseason appearance since 2007.
Brooklyn (41-29) is in fourth place in the East and improved to 3-1 on its eight-game road trip with a 102-100 win over Phoenix on Sunday. It has won seven of 10 overall and leads Atlanta and Chicago by 2 1/2 games for home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason.
"It wasn't pretty. It wasn't like we are going to say we did 800 things well but we did enough things to win," coach P.J. Carlesimo said of Sunday's victory. "We found a way to get the win.''
The Nets did so without Johnson, who is battling a right quad contusion suffered in Saturday's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. He hopes to play Wednesday, but said he won't rush back with the playoffs approaching.
"I'm just going to try and get this thing right," Johnson said. "It's frustrating to sit out and watch. This is the most important time of the season."
Deron Williams stepped up in Johnson's absence, scoring 20 points and adding 11 assists. He's averaging 25.0 points on the trip.
''A win is a win. We will take it,'' Williams said. ''It is a good start (on the road). It wasn't the way we wanted to win it but it is a win none the less and puts us 3-1 which is pretty good on this road trip.''
Williams finished with 15 points and 12 assists in a 98-85 win over Portland on Nov. 25. Gerald Wallace scored only two points and shot 1 for 8 from the field against his former team that traded him to the Nets for a first-round pick in 2012.
The pick turned out to be Blazers' rookie-of-the-year candidate Damian Lillard, who is averaging 19.1 points.
Portland has won four straight home meetings over the Nets.