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Nets' Joe Johnson working his way back into form

Nets' Joe Johnson drives the baseline against the

Nets' Joe Johnson drives the baseline against the Philadelphia 76ers' Evan Turner in the second quarter at the Barclays Center. (April 9, 2013) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Their standout guard was firing off jumpers from a variety of distances, swishing all but two of his six long-range bombs in the Nets' demolition of the Celtics.

Deron Williams? Nope, not him.

This was the Nets' other member of their starting backcourt, the guy who plays the main sidekick: Joe Johnson. And talk about an encouraging sign.

For the second straight game -- and night, for that matter -- Johnson showed he's rounding back into form. He made 8 of 15 shots, went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc and scored 20 points in the Nets' 101-93 win over Boston, creating optimism heading into Friday night's matchup with the Pacers (49-29) that he's finally getting over his nagging sore left heel.

"It's the same thing we were saying about 'D' when people wanted to say, 'What's wrong?' " interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said after the game, referring to the questions surrounding Williams earlier this season. "Joe was injured. He's missed games and he's been playing hurt.

"He's still playing well considering that, but [Wednesday] was Joe Johnson. [Tuesday] night I thought was Joe Johnson. Just hopefully, he's healthy."

It looks as though he's getting close. Although Johnson didn't say he's 100 percent healthy, he was encouraged with the way his body felt during and after the game. The pain was minimal.

"Once I get kind of loose, I don't really feel it," Johnson said. "But then again, I'm leaning more with my right than my left. So it's getting a lot better, honestly. It felt great [Wednesday], so I didn't really want to push it, then reinjure it.

"This next day or so, I'm going to take my time, ice it, stim it, get it back. But I felt great out there moving around."

Johnson's health is vital to the Nets' success. Given that they have little to play for in their last four games other than locking in playoff seeding, giving him extra rest until the postseason begins makes sense. It's a delicate balancing act, one that Johnson is well aware of.

"I think me being healthy is probably the most important thing, but [Wednesday], we were able to gain some chemistry with a lot of guys," he said. "So that was fun, man. We came in and beat a tough team. If everything is locked in for the last game or so, who knows? I may sit out. I may not. I don't know."

But at least he's slowly transforming back into the same ol' Joe.

"It's good," Williams said. "We knew it was going to take him a little bit of time just to get used to things, get his legs back under him. We definitely are going to need him full force coming down the stretch and into the playoffs."

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