Joe Johnson scores 22 points as Nets beat Philadelphia 76ers
Deron Williams wasn't about to go there, not with the way things went down early last week in the mini firestorm he created by politely dissing Avery Johnson's offense.
During a three-day break between games, the Nets installed some new flex plays to help their stagnant offense. So after their 95-92 win over the 76ers before a sellout crowd of 17,732 at Barclays Center on Sunday, snapping a three-game losing streak, an inquiring mind wanted to know if the new stuff centered around anything Williams ran with the Jazz under Jerry Sloan.
"No," he said with a wry smile, drawing laughs. "Those were coach Johnson's sets."
Either way, the Nets (14-12) finally may have found a solution, and that included dropping Kris Humphries out of the lineup at power forward. Gerald Wallace shifted to power forward and Keith Bogans played small forward. For the first time in a while, they looked crisp on offense.
The ball movement was solid. There were fewer isolation plays. They didn't just dump the ball into Brook Lopez and watch him while everyone else stood around posing for Christmas cards.
Look no further than the closing minutes for proof: Williams' three-pointer with 1:04 left (giving the Nets an 89-82 lead) and his layup with 40.5 seconds left (which put them ahead 91-83) came off the recently installed plays.
"We put in a couple of new sets, which were old sets we ran the first couple of years but we hadn't put in this year," said Williams (16 points, six rebounds, five assists). "It's a little more continuity. It was good for us tonight. We got some good looks out of it. We got to the back side of plays and got some open shots."
Joe Johnson was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the improved ball movement, scoring 22 points. With the 76ers (13-15) leading by eight in the first quarter, he helped ignite an 18-0 run.
"We had some great looks today, and the new offense that he did put in, it was almost 100 percent [successful],'' said Johnson, one of six Nets to reach double figures in scoring. "We got a couple of back doors, a couple of easy layups, a couple of wide-open jump shots. It gives us a variety of options, and when the ball is moving like that, it's hard to guard teams."
Wallace gave the Nets a spark at power forward. "If you look at teams like Miami and New York," he said, "they are kind of playing small ball and it's giving them more opportunity to get an up-tempo style . . . So it's something he said he wanted to try tonight, and obviously it worked out for us pretty good."
Now they'll see if they can say the same thing after Tuesday's nationally televised Christmas matinee with the Celtics.
"Hopefully, this can be a confidence-booster and can carry over to however long of a win streak," Joe Johnson said. "But we don't want it to stop here. We have our eye on Boston on Christmas Day and we are going to come out and take care of business."