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Streaking Nets surge past Suns, 99-79

Joe Johnson scores 19, Brooklyn overcomes halftime deficit
01/11/2013 11:44 PM ET
By Joe Auriemma

Andray Blatche scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench on Friday.(AP)

The Nets hosted the Suns at Barclays Center on Friday night in another matchup the Nets should have easily won. But things don't always go as planned.

The Nets didn’t just battle the Suns, but they battled themselves in the first half of the game. In the end, the Nets did eventually roll up their sleeves and gut out another victory -- one that turned into a blowout.

It might just look like another win in the box score when it's all said and done, but this was an overall gutsy performance by the Nets to achieve a very positive result.

The Suns controlled the tempo of the game throughout the first half. They played more physical and, behind the hot hands of Jared Dudley, Goran Dragic and Shannon Brown, they were playing maybe their most complete game of the season.

Adding insult to injury for the Nets, another key member of their starting five was added to the M.A.S.H. unit, as Gerald Wallace took a very hard foul from P.J. Tucker. Wallace, who normally has a very high tolerance for pain, was left lying on the court in obvious pain.

X-rays came back negative, but Wallace would not return with bruised ribs. He joined Jerry Stackhouse (sore hamstring), Mirza Teletovic (illness), and Kris Humphries (sore left ankle) on the sidelines, crippling the Nets’ already thin depth chart.

Even with all of that to overcome, the 53-46 halftime deficit seemed like a win for a team that was clearly outplayed and continuing to fight the injury and illness bugs.

The second half was a different story for the Nets entirely. Deron Williams had to leave the game three separate times over the course of the night, clearly hobbling because of a thigh contusion. He would not finish the game, but that didn't seem to matter. The players that were out there became a cohesive unit that dominated at both ends of the court.

Joe Johnson, suffering from that bug that seemed to be looming in the Nets locker room, stepped up and scored 12 of his game-high 19 points. He is currently going through his hottest stretch as a Net to present. He became the floor leader for a team that needed a veteran presence.

“Sitting out wasn’t even a thought for me,” Johnson said after the game. He did tell the media he is aware that he is in need of rest, but the team really needs him now.

The bench was led by MarShon Brooks, who added 11 of his 17 points in the second half, and Andray Blatche, who continues to impress in the frontcourt, adding 15 points and eight boards of his own.

The Nets dominated in the paint, outscoring Phoenix, 32-6, after being outscored, 26-14, in the first half. Reggie Evans was a monster, pulling down 15 boards as the Nets took the lead and never relinquished it. Brooklyn also held the Suns to a 9-for-38 shooting performance in the second half, which is a woeful 23.7 percent from the floor, leading to the Nets outscoring Phoenix, 53-26, to win yet another game running away.

“I think we just reacted to our own performance,” Brook Lopez said. “The bottom line was we didn't have energy in the first half, and we came out and rectified that in the second.”

The 99-79 victory over the Suns also marked a historical feat for the franchise. For the third consecutive game, the Nets won by 20 points or more. No Nets team had ever done anything like that until these last three impressive wins.

The Nets improved to 7-1 under P.J. Carlesimo and did it in very brilliant fashion. They seem to be coming together as a team, and whatever curveball is thrown their way, they are able to fight through it. With the competition about to get a bit tougher, Brooklyn needs to get players back out on the court. But it should be comforting for them to know that their depth is now truly a strength.

“We're banged up right now,” Carlesimo said. “We found a way to win, which is encouraging, very encouraging.”

All things are clicking right now for the Nets, who welcome in a very tough Pacers team (22-14) on Sunday. Deron Williams is still a question mark for that game, and he told the media that he will receive treatment on his thigh Saturday and is hopeful to be ready for Sunday. That is certainly the best the Nets can hope for in a game that will feature two of the Eastern Conference's better teams.

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