Nets overcome deficit, injuries to win fifth straight
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The thud reverberated around Barclays Center, and collective moans were heard with every replay shown on the massive high-definition scoreboard.
Barely six minutes had elapsed in Friday night's game against the Suns, and the Nets already were staring at the likelihood of tipping off their three-game homestand without one of their top players, creating yet another test in a season full of them.
Gerald Wallace was writhing in discomfort after getting hacked on a fast-break dunk by P.J. Tucker. The Nets feared the worst, knowing that the guy with such a high pain threshold was down and out. "It was an ugly fall," Joe Johnson said. "I thought he almost broke his wrist or something . . . It's tough, man. That's why in this season, you wish you can have all your key guys. But this is part of the game. Injuries happen and other guys have to step up."
That's exactly what happened, particularly after the Nets sleepwalked through a first half in which they trailed by 11 points. They overcame the loss of Wallace to bruised ribs and hung tough when Deron Williams got injured early in the third, throttling the Suns in the second half for a 99-79 victory that extended their winning streak to five.
"We're banged up right now and we found a way to win, which is encouraging," said P.J. Carlesimo, who is 7-1 as interim coach. "Very encouraging."
Their current roll has the Nets (21-15) in uncharted territory. The win was their third straight 20-point victory, marking the first time that's happened in franchise history since they did it in their ABA days back in 1975.
They outplayed the Suns in every facet in the second half, outscoring them 53-26 and holding Phoenix (12-26) to 23.7 percent shooting. "We just talked amongst ourselves at halftime," Reggie Evans said, "and we just kind of let each other know that we started doing the same things that had us losing. We had to look within ourselves and see what we were doing wrong instead of just pointing the finger and get back to our normal team basketball in the second half. That's what we did -- played team basketball -- and it showed."
Williams got hurt with 10:56 left in the third quarter when he drove to the basket and appeared to bang his right thigh on Goran Dragic's knee. After being diagnosed with a right thigh contusion, he returned just over four minutes later and gutted it out the rest of the way. "I didn't think when I did it I was going to be able to stay out there," Williams said, "especially after I went out and went back to the [locker room]. But I just went and got on the bike, tried to loosen it up a little bit and come back and give us some needed minutes."
Johnson's consecutive three-pointers in the fourth capped a 24-6 run that turned a tie game into an 84-66 Nets lead. Despite battling flu-like symptoms, he had 19 points. The Nets also were without Kris Humphries (ankle), Mirza Teletovic (illness) and Jerry Stackhouse (sore hamstring) but still got it done.
"We have some momentum right now," Johnson said. "We have been playing some good basketball of late, but we still have a long way to go."