The Nets finally got one of their weapons back, and they sure needed him to come through in the clutch. Just like old times.
Joe Johnson returned from a five-game absence and scored 12 points in 34 minutes in a 92-90 loss to the Bulls Thursday night. Although he struggled early in his first game since suffering a right quadriceps contusion March 23 in Los Angeles, Johnson had it going in the fourth.
He nailed 3 of 6 attempts and had nine key points, including a three-pointer that gave the Nets an 88-86 lead with just over a minute left.
"First half, honestly I was just trying to feel my way through,'' Johnson said. "I just wanted to get up and down the floor a little bit and see how it felt. I took a couple of shots here and there in the first half. Second half, I wanted to be a little bit more aggressive and go off the dribble.''
Rose return soon?
The Bulls' Derrick Rose worked up a serious lather before the game, continuing to test his repaired left anterior cruciate ligament. The superstar guard still hasn't played since going down in the first round of last year's playoffs and doesn't plan to play until he's mentally ready.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose was a full participant in Chicago's shootaround Thursday morning and indicated Rose might not be all that far from a return, though he refused to speculate exactly when.
"Yeah, he's close,'' Thibodeau said. "But he's not going to come back until he's ready. He feels a lot better. You guys have seen him play. His skill set is power and speed, stop, go, change of direction. So he has to make sure he's completely comfortable with that. He's close, but he's not quite there yet.''
Wednesday night's win over the Cavaliers marked the seventh time in a 10-game span in which the Nets topped 100 points, and they won six of them. The Nets are 9-0 when they score at least 113 points.