Nets hold on to beat Suns, 102-100

Kris Humphries (43), Deron Williams (8), Brook Lopez Kris Humphries (43), Deron Williams (8), Brook Lopez (11) and Keith Bogans (10) celebrate against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of a game in Phoenix. (March 24, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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PHOENIX -- The guy who made a name for himself out here in the desert spent the entire game on the bench with his warmups on, unable to play after his right quadriceps stiffened up on him overnight. Turns out the Nets were almost done in by the guy wearing his old Suns number, the one with the same last name of Johnson.

With Joe Johnson sidelined with a right quadriceps bruise he suffered less than 24 hours earlier, the Nets were minus their closer, but they still had Deron Williams and C.J. Watson.

The duo totaled 19 points in the final quarter -- with Williams hitting the go-ahead three-pointer with just over five minutes left -- as the Nets beat the Suns, 102-100, at US Airways Center.

This one wasn't sealed until just before the buzzer sounded, when the Suns' Hamed Haddadi missed a putback of Goran Dragic's missed free throw.

After Watson hit two free throws to give the Nets a three-point lead with 6.3 seconds left, P.J. Carlesimo had Williams foul Dragic (31 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds) with three seconds to play to prevent a potential tying three-pointer.

Dragic hit his first free throw to bring the Suns within two, and when he intentionally missed the second one, Haddadi pulled down the Suns' 25th offensive rebound. But from point-blank range, he completely missed the rim, and Reggie Evans rebounded to seal the win.

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Said Williams, "I think any time something like that happens -- the ball is in the air and then you've got Haddadi down there catches it and I'm just sitting there looking at him like . . . But we definitely escaped one.''

It was that kind of game for the Nets (41-29), who bounced back from Saturday's loss to the Clippers and are 3-1 during this eight-game stretch on the road.

The Nets narrowly escaped despite allowing Wesley Johnson to score 17 of his 21 points in the third quarter, draining five three-pointers to help transform the Nets' 55-43 halftime lead into a 76-75 deficit.

Brook Lopez scored 21 points, Williams had 20 points and 11 assists and Kris Humphries turned in one of his best games of the season. He was extremely active with 17 points and eight rebounds, making a case for Carlesimo to keep him in the rotation -- even if he did blow a wide-open dunk in the fourth quarter.

"I went to the bucket and pushed off and I didn't quite have it there,'' Humphries said. "But that just comes with shaking the rust off and I was a little tired by that time when it came around in the second half.''

As for Joe Johnson, he suffered the bruised quadriceps when he bumped into Blake Griffin in the third quarter of the Nets' 101-95 loss to the Clippers. He said it was swollen and tight Sunday, so the Nets made the decision to sit him out, starting Keith Bogans in his place.

Johnson was unsure if he'll be able to play when the Nets face the Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

"It's frustrating for me because all these little knick-knacks are starting to happen with me down the stretch of the season," Johnson said before the game, "and this is the most important part of the season at this point right now. So that's probably the most frustrating thing. It's not about where we are playing and who we are playing. I always want to be out there with the guys. I hate sitting out and watching. That's the hardest part."

Since the All-Star break, Johnson hasn't been the same explosive player. He's averaging 13.8 points, down from the 17.0 he posted before the break, and his three-point percentage has taken a serious dip, dropping by nearly 8 percent.

"Yeah, I'm concerned, because he's come back and he's not healthy yet," Carlesimo said. "I just think it's very similar to what we were talking about with Deron. You saw the difference when Deron came back and felt good and was close to -- 100 percent is the wrong word, but when he's the best he's felt all year, it made a big difference.

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"Every time I ask Joe how it feels, he says he's OK. Again, he wants to play. But I think that if you look at the numbers and you look at what Joe's done since the injury, it's not the same Joe. So yeah, we need to get Joe Johnson back healthy. If he's healthy, then he'll play the way Joe Johnson plays."

That's why Johnson didn't shoot down the possibility of taking some time off to make sure he doesn't play until he's as close to normal. Last thing he wants to do is jeopardize his status for the playoffs.

"I think my health is more important right now at this point," he said. "Just to heal up the little wounds because obviously, man, we want to do something major in the postseason, so I don't want to go into the postseason with these things bothering me."

In other words, he doesn't want to find himself in uncharted territory.

"Every year going into the playoffs, man," Johnson said, "I've been extremely injury-free, healthy and ready. This is a little different, but I will definitely be ready when I'm supposed to."

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Is it frustrating for Williams that he and Johnson can't be together and healthy?

"Yeah,'' he said, "but if we are still winning, then everything is all right. We won today without him, so that's good. But we are going to need him. There's no doubt about that. We are going to need him and we are going to need him healthy, so the most important thing for him is for him to get rest and for him to get healthy. He's been battling. He's been playing through a lot of pain. You can see it, you can tell. So he's been a warrior out here in the games he has played.''

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