Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK – The Nets have made a habit this season of gaining a double-digit lead, then coughing up it as well as the game. On Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Nets gained a double-digit lead, gave it all back, but refused to give back the game.
Joe Johnson‘s team-high 22 points, his eighth 20-point game of the season, a season-high 13 from surprise starter Keith Bogans and a strong effort from Andray Blatche off the bench (10 points, four rebounds) all added up to a 95-92 win for the Nets on Sunday at Barclays Center.
Deron Williams finished with 16 points, while Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez finished with 14 point for the Nets, who snapped a season-long three-game losing streak.
For the Sixers, Jrue Holiday scored a game-high 24 points.
“I thought we played with a lot more intensity and I thought we had a lot more fun,” Johnson said. “We talked about it at practice the other day. We had a great practice and it carried over to the game.”
New sets, new results
Williams hit two big shots in the fourth quarter, a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:04 left to extend to an 89-82 lead and a driving layup off a feed from Wallace for 91-83 lead with 40.5 seconds left. Both buckets came off new offensive sets the team put in during practice over the three-day break leading up to the game.
In addition to the new offensive sets, the baskets were results of everyone running the plays all the way through, something that has not always been the case this season.
“I hit some shots, a 3 and a layup, some shots that we needed at a crucial time,” said Williams, who scored nine of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. “Hopefully, I can get my confidence going a little bit. We put in a couple new sets, which were old sets we ran the last couple years that we hadn’t put in this year, so there was more continuity. We just went over it, worked on it and it was good for us tonight.”
Johnson continues to surge
Head coach Avery Johnson has previously said it would probably take Joe Johnson until around mid-December to get fully comfortable with his new team after coming over from the Atlanta Hawks. As Christmas nears, the head coach appears correct.
The 6-foot-7 shooting guard came into Sunday averaging 21 points over his last five games and Sunday’s 20-point effort continued his strong play. The highlight of his day came late in the third quarter when he hit a 27-foot bomb over Evan Turner to give the Nets a 66-62 lead. He followed that make a short time later with a 31-footer over Turner with 1.2 seconds left on the clock to give the Nets a 69-64 lead going to the fourth.
“It’s just instincts,” Joe Johnson said. “You’re not out there thinking, you’re just playing. When the ball was swinging to me, I was just catching it and just shooting. That last one I shot, I had a made a couple already, so I felt pretty comfortable in shooting from deep.”
Bogans starts, Humphries sits
About 45 minutes before tip, the Nets made a surprise announcement that Bogans would start at small forward with Wallace moving down to power forward. That meant incumbent power forward Kris Humphries would move to the bench.
Bogans scored eight points and hit two big 3-pointers as part of his 13 points, while Wallace did the job defensively on athletic Sixers power forward Thaddeus Young, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but had just two points in the first half when the Nets gained control for good.
The Nets likely got more than they could have hoped for out of Bogans and with Wallace’s ability to guard power forwards, this starting lineup, the Nets’ sixth different starting lineup of the season, is likely to be seen often moving forward.
“I visited with him (Humphries) in my office before and it’s basically a coach’s decision, guys,” Avery Johnson said. “It has nothing do with Humphries, he’s healthy, he’s fine, he’s not in the doghouse. Hey, we just have to try something else and we’ll see how long we can go with it. Hopefully, we can build some continuity. Some games he’ll play some minutes and today he didn’t play. Right now, Gerald playing a whole lot of minutes at 4, Reggie (Evans) playing some backup minutes at 4, that’s kind of what we’re thinking and ‘Hump’ will fill in that 4 and 5 when we need him.”
After being one of just five players in the NBA last season to average a double-double, Humphries re-signed with the Nets in the offseason for two years $24 million. In 25 games before Sunday, including 20 starts, he has averaged 7.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and has just six double-doubles.
“Obviously, anyone wants to start and play as much as possible,” Humphries said. “You’re obviously frustrated, but it’s about more than just one player. I didn’t really know it was going to be a DNP, but stuff happens and it’s how you handle it.”
Shengelia cracks rotation
Apparently, a triple-double on Friday in a one-game D-League stint was enough to earn Tornike Shengelia regular rotation minutes for the first time on Sunday.
After going for 22 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds on Friday for the Springfield Armor, the seldom-used 6-foot-9 rookie small forward by way of the Republic of Georgia entered Sunday’s game at the 1:04 mark of the first quarter, his first action of the season outside of garbage time.
The 3:20 Shengelia played spanning the first and second quarters was a bit of a mixed bag with a rebound, an assist and a turnover, but it was a step in the right direction for a player who has been inactive 13 times and has been a DNP-CD six other times.
The Nets went down 12-4 early, but then ripped off an 18-0 that spanned 6:42 across the first and second quarters to take a 22-12 lead, it’s biggest of the day….The Nets are now 7-2 against the Eastern Conference….Aside from snapping their three-game losing streak, the Nets also snapped six-game home losing streak to the Sixers. Their last home win over the Sixers came on April 5, 2009 when the team still played at the IZOD Center in New Jersey….Bogans is averaging 12 points and has shot 9-for-12 overall and 6-for-9 from 3-point range over the last two games….Wallace handed out a team-high six assists, making him the first person other than Williams to lead the team in assists. His 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals make him only the seventh Net in the last decade to achieve that stat line.
“Hopefully, this can be a confidence-booster and carryover to however long of a winning streak. We don’t want to stop here. We have our eyes on Boston on Christmas Day and we want to come out and take care of business.”–Joe Johnson
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA