Nets' Joe Johnson takes his game up notch

Joe Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets puts up Joe Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets puts up a shot in the first half against P.J. Tucker of the Phoenix Suns. (Jan. 11, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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Knowing just how rough this whole flu season has been -- he had to sit out a game himself last month -- Reggie Evans perked up when he saw Joe Johnson slide into the Nets' digs Friday evening.

Johnson was congested the night before the game, unable to sleep to the point that he phoned the Nets' training staff at the crack of dawn with hopes of getting some meds to tackle the sickness. He felt so bad, he never even made it to the team's morning shootaround.

"Joe is one hundred, man, one hundred," Nets power forward Evans said, using slang to explain that he thinks Johnson is extremely good at what he does. "So I was happy as hell to see him walk through the locker room. I love playing with him."

No little flu bug was going to stop Johnson. Nothing else has lately, either. He's taken to interim coach P.J Carlesimo's call-anybody-out style, playing as well as he has all season. He's entered a different stratosphere with his confidence, hoisting shots that exude a serious conviction as soon as he releases them.

In his last five games, the 6-7 shooting guard has cranked up his game a notch. Johnson is averaging 20.0 points, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds, nailing 48.1 percent from the floor and hitting them at a 48.4 percent clip from three-point range. He's truly serving as the go-to guy and the closer for the Nets (21-15), who host the Pacers (22-14) Sunday night.

"I just approach it as, we've got the best jobs in America," Johnson said after Friday's win. "I just try to come in here and keep a smile on my face day in and day out. I don't let the small things worry me. Even when people said we were struggling and were right there by .500, we'd still come in, try to keep the guys loose, have a good time. Life's too short to be moping around here. I know we had tough times, but tough times never last. So we just have to hang in there."

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With Johnson doing his thing on a nightly basis and Deron Williams finally playing at a consistently high level, the Nets' backcourt is starting to mirror what general manager Billy King envisioned. Their cohesion is growing, and it shows.

The duo is more in sync, connecting with each other in the flow of the offense, which in turn is putting extra pressure on opposing guards. "I think it's been better lately. I think we are just finding out how to adjust to each other," Williams said.

In a few days, Johnson will venture back to Atlanta, where he spent seven seasons. The Hawks gave him a six-year, $119-million deal that the Nets inherited when they traded for him in July.

"My body is feeling pretty good," Johnson said. "My knees are great, my ankles are great. I'm in a great situation."

Notes & quotes: Gerald Wallace (bruised ribs) is out for Sunday night's game. Williams (thigh contusion) is questionable. Kris Humphries (ankle) is a game-time decision.

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