Johnson propels undermanned Nets
The Brooklyn Nets were staring at second-half collapses similar to the one that did them in during Sunday night's loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
This time Joe Johnson and the Nets were able to stave off a late run by the Denver Nuggets and enter the All-Star break with two straight wins, despite playing without star point guard Deron Williams.
Joe Johnson scored 26 points, including five 3-pointers, C.J Watson added 25 points and a career-high five 3s, and Brooklyn came away with a 119-108 victory Wednesday night.
The Nets rebound from that ugly loss against the Spurs to win at Indiana on Monday night and managed to hold off another playoff contender in the Nuggets.
''I'm really, really proud. When we left here Sunday night, we weren't feeling too good coming off a pretty poor half where the Spurs just dominated us,'' Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. ''You get into Indiana late and get that win. Then to come back here and take advantage of them having two guys out and them playing back-to-back and four out of five, it was big.''
The Nuggets, who were without Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodola, lost their third straight game after winning a season-high seven straight. Denver lost Tuesday night at Toronto.
''Without Gallinari and Iguodola, we're down two of our better defenders. There's no question that Gallo and A.I. give us length and some experienced defensive-minded guys,'' Denver coach George Karl said.
All-Star center Brook Lopez had 23 points and eight rebounds and Kris Humphries chipped in 14 points for Brooklyn.
The 119 points were a season high for the Nets. They also tied a season-high with 16 3-pointers.
After posting 29 second-half points in their home loss to the Spurs, the Nets managed to maintain their poise in the second half against the Nuggets, shooting at a 60 percent from the field and making seven 3-pointers, refusing to wilt as Denver shipped away at a 20-point lead.
''It really is just us being relentless, regardless of what happens,'' Johnson said.
''We know teams are going to make a run on us, which they did tonight. But we got back in the ballgame and at the same time, we kept our composure, ran our offense and got to the free-throw line when we needed to.
Brooklyn is now 2-1 in games played without Williams, who missed the last two games with sore ankles. Johnson had nine assists and Watson, with six, did a nice job setting up their teammates. Rookie Tyshawn Taylor logged 15 minutes at the point.
Lopez, who missed almost all of last season with a fractured foot, will be the lone Nets representative at this year's All-Star Game in Houston. He said the team has played well without Williams.
''I think we've played great team ball. We have confidence in each other. That's the most important part,'' Lopez said.
Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 26 points and hit all of his five 3-point attempts.
Jordan Hamilton had 15 points and JaVale McGee added 14 points for the Nuggets. Andre Miller scored eight points and had 10 assists.
Brooklyn got into a track meet with the Nuggets, playing Denver's style, but leading 62-57 at the half.
Brooklyn led 68-61 with 8:58 left in the third quarter and Johnson set the pace by scoring eight of his 13 points in the quarter as the Nets went on a 21-8 run to increase their lead to 89-69 with 3:25 remaining but then almost the whole lead vanished in the fourth quarter.
Denver opened the fourth quarter by going on a 15-6 run and closed to within five points after Corey Brewer's layup made it 101-96 after Miller stole the ball from Lopez.
Brooklyn then went on a 14-3 run started by a 3-pointer from Watson that made it 104-96. McGee then answered with a put back slam dunk to make it 104-98.
Watson hit a free throw that made it 105-95 and added a floater off the glass that made it 107-98. After Miller missed a jumper, Taylor hit a 3 that made it 110-98. McGee was then fouled and made one of two from the free throw line.
''They were making a lot of shots and we tried to make a run but it was not good enough,'' Kenneth Faried said. ''This was a tough game because they made shots and they did what they wanted to do.''
The teams traded baskets in the first half. Denver shot 23 for 41 (56.1 percent) from the field and hit 4 of 5 behind the 3-point line while the Nets made 20 of 40 from the field (50 percent) while hitting 9-of-14 3-point attempts.
Notes: Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey was at the game. . The Nuggets gave up 17 3-pointer to the Los Angeles Lakers back on November 30. . Brooklyn hit 16 3s at Houston on January 26. ... The 31 wins for the Nets at the All-Star break are the fourth-most in team history. They had 34 at the break during the 2003-04 season.