(December 17, 2013)
BROOKLYN—If you were one of the 16,733 fortunate fans in Barclays Center Monday - the ones that got to see one of the greatest shooting performances in the history of the NBA - the thought that this Brooklyn Nets team that routed the Philadelphia 76ers, 130-94, lost to the Knicks by 30 just 12 days ago, is unfathomable.
“It just seems like to me teams come in here freelancing, shooting lights out,’’ a somber Joe Johnson said that night. “It’s almost like it’s no respect.”
The Nets continued what appears to be an undeniable surge to respectability with their fourth win in five games. They set a franchise record by making 21, 3-pointers, 10 by Johnson.
When Johnson hit his last 3 with the 27.7 seconds left in the third quarter, the one with Philly’s James Anderson draped over him like sofa cover, the entire Nets bench popped like a Champagne cork.
Johnson converted the free throw to complete a four-point play. It was his 29th point of the quarter, his 37th point on the night and the Nets’ 100th of the game – in the third quarter.
It was a performance that Nets fans that weren’t in the building will claim they had been 30 years from now.
“It was a special performance,’’ said coach Jason Kidd, “especially being sick.”
Oh yes, Johnson had been a bit under the weather the last few days. He said he was taking a little of this and that.
Surely the prescription read: Take 3 and shoot the ball.
“It was just a good feeling,’’ said Johnson. “It seems you catch the ball with the seams every time and it’s right. Every time it comes out of your hand, it’s going in. I can’t really explain it.’’
It’s almost inexplicable that this is almost the same team that lost, 113-83 to the Knicks on Dec. 5th. The Knicks were outscored, 34-16, in third quarter of that game. They outscored the 76ers, 42-25, Monday night.
Nine of the 11 Nets that played shot 50-percent or better from the field. The Nets shot 60-percent (21-of-35) on 3’s. Deron Williams, in his fourth game back since returning from a sprained ankle, had a double double (13 points, 13 assists).
And Mirza Teletovic, making his first career start in the NBA, scored 11 points. This is significant because there is no timetable for Andrei Kirilenko’s return and, even if he should return soon, his balky back comes with no guarantees.
So the Nets found another answer Monday night. They found themselves on the right side of a laugher. Each game they seem to find themselves a little more.
When asked if they had arrived, Kevin Garnett, 37, said he didn’t want to jump the gun. He also was asked if he had ever seen a shooting performance like the one Johnson turned in.
“I’ve been in the league since Moses,” he said. “There’s not too much I haven’t seen.”
Here’s what he hasn’t seen, why he doesn’t want to jump the gun. He’s never been on a team that entered a season with such high expectations, bottomed out, and responded as this group had.
As for the rest of us, the 16,733 that were in Barclays Center Monday night, we had never seen in person a shooting performance like the one Johnson turned in.
"He had 29 in a quarter?’’ said Williams. “Oh my God."
Yep. Here’s the irony of it all: On the night that Johnson was sick, the Nets got a little healthier.