SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Avery Johnson is noticing a little something going on with the Nets of late, a vibe that's growing with each win.
"Right now, with the way we've been playing here recently -- not that we've been perfect," the coach said, "they are sensing something starting to happen. We are still on the ground floor, but something is starting to happen."
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Finally whole again and playing with a full deck for only the second time this season after welcoming Gerald Wallace (ankle) back from a six-game absence, the Nets remained on a roll Sunday night. They began their West Coast swing of three games in four nights with a 99-90 victory over the Kings at Sleep Train Arena, winning their fifth straight for the first time since March 2011.
The Nets' bench was a key in this one, igniting an offense that at times was lethargic, particularly with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson going a combined 5-for-22 from the floor. Backup center Andray Blatche played as if he were possessed, scoring 22 points to help the Nets (6-2) double up Sacramento's reserves by a 52-26 margin.
"I'm starting to believe the starters are starting to believe in the second group," Blatche said, "because every game we come in, we always come in with energy and effort, and pick up the slack or pick up anything we can help with, and try to get the lead big enough so when they come back in the game, they can pick it up where we left off at."
But those third-quarter blues keep creeping up on the Nets, and things weren't any different against the Kings (2-8).
Sacramento cut a 12-point halftime deficit to 67-65 late in the third, but Reggie Evans converted a nice pass from C.J. Watson with 1:47 left in the quarter, sticking it up and in while getting fouled by DeMarcus Cousins. Evans sank the free throw for a 70-65 lead, and the Nets took a 74-65 lead into the fourth.
Sacramento hit consecutive three-pointers to whittle the Nets' lead to 74-71 and got within two with 9:02 left, but the Nets held them off.
"We've got to find better ways to come out in the first and third quarters," Williams said. "That's been really an Achilles' heel for us all season.
"We play really well in the second quarter. I think that second group does a good job of coming in, pushing the tempo, getting after people defensively. I think we need to have that same sense of urgency when we come out to start games and come out to start third quarters.''
MarShon Brooks also provided a big lift off the bench, scoring all of his 14 points in the second half. Williams had 14 points and 10 assists, Brook Lopez added 13 points and five rebounds, and Watson also scored 13, going 3-for-4 from three-point range.
Johnson struggled with his shot again, going only 1-for-10, though he finished with 10 points.
Cousins paced the Kings with 29 points.
The Nets' next test comes Tuesday night in Los Angeles against Mike D'Antoni's Lakers. A win would help validate their hot streak.
"It's a big game when you have a good run going,'' Williams said. "We have won five in a row and we want to keep that up. We just have to come out with a good focus, like I said about those first and third quarters. We can't come out and have those types of quarters against teams like the Lakers."