Johnson Shakes off Sickness, Scores Game-High

Joe Johnson couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t really breathe through the congestion and couldn’t pretend he was fine as the sun started leaking out across Friday morning,

Johnson phoned the Brooklyn Nets’ training staff “probably 5 or 6 in the morning” to let them know he was sick. They got him medication, he got rest and the Nets got 19 points in a 99-79 victory against the Suns at Barclays Center.

“I just tried to give the team what I got,” said Johnson, who led all scorers. “We’re in a pretty good rhythm right now, so me sitting out wasn’t even a thought for me. But I know I needed to get some rest, and just doctored myself up a little bit. I’m just trying to ride this wave right now.”

The wave has now lasted long enough that it’s becoming hard to predict the next crash. After struggling for the Nets’ first 10 games, in which Johnson averaged just 14.9 points on .346 shooting, the starting 2-guard has become perhaps the team’s most consistent player, averaging 18.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting .395 from three-point range and .446 overall.

Johnson’s steady play has provided a platform for other players to spring off. When the team lost 10 of 13 December games, he led them in scoring six times; during the current 7-1 run, he has done so only twice. The buckets he hits often come at big moments, whether it’s elevating the Nets – recall those two double-overtime game-winners – or preventing an opponent’s run from gaining final momentum.

“He’s playing well for us,” said point guard Deron Williams. “When we need a bucket, we know we can go to him, let him operate, let him work. And he’s battling out there, he was sick tonight and battling a tough defense. They threw a lot at him, double-teaming a lot, but he was being patient and playing within the offense.”

That has included an expanded role alongside fellow shooting guard MarShon Brooks, whose minutes (and productivity) have spiked in recent weeks. In 160 minutes together this season, the pair have a net effective rating of +10.2 points per 100 possessions (Off: 106.3; Def: 96.0).

The data supports a smooth rapport that continues to evolve, with Brooks notably splitting the defense on a fourth-quarter drive to find Johnson open in the corner for a three-pointer that capped a 24-6 run. With a 20-point lead and just 8 minutes to play, the Suns drew no closer than 15 the rest of the way.

“(MarShon) is a scorer, a creator,” Johnson said. “His time is definitely going to come, and I just try to tell him, ‘When you get in the game, make the most of it, make your presence be felt.’ And tonight it was.

“He was in the paint making plays not only for hisself, but for us around him and I was on the distributing end a few times. He’s a heckuva player, man.”

Visit the Nets vs. Suns Game Center for a full recap of Friday's game.

Phoenix Suns point guard Sebastian Telfair grew up in Coney Island, playing his high school basketball at perennial borough powerhouse Lincoln, and was amped to play in Brooklyn for the first time as a professional. He met with media before the game to discuss his return:

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