They've been in this very position several times before, only to find ways to blow it.
Undermanned teams have given the Nets fits in their inaugural season in Brooklyn, leaving them scratching their heads on more than one occasion. Rather than delivering a death blow to teams that were missing at least one key piece, the Nets are the ones who seem to go belly-up, staggering to a disappointing finish.
Playing without their floor general Deron Williams as he sat out for the second straight game while he tries to calm down the inflammation in his ankles, the Nets made sure they went into the All-Star break feeling pretty good about themselves. Joe Johnson made sure if it, scoring half of his team-high 26 points in the third quarter to power the Nets to a 119-108 win over Denver at the Barclays Center. It is the most points Brooklyn has scored in a game this season.
"Well, we were missing one of our key guys, so you don't feel sorry for anybody who has key guys out," said Johnson, who hit 10 of 19 shots and added nine assists. "We are trying to get a win by any means. For us, regardless of who was out there we wanted to come out and play hard and play smart and last important pull out this win."
By picking up their second straight victory following Sunday's debacle against a Spurs team missing Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, the Nets (31-22) head into the All-Star break with the fourth-most wins in franchise history and their highest total since collecting 34 during the 2003-04 campaign.
"I'm really, really proud," interim coach P.J Carlesimo said. "When we left here Sunday night, we weren't feeling too good coming off a pretty poor half where the Spurs just dominated us. You get into Indiana late and get that win and all. Then, to come back here and take advantage of them having two guys out and them playing a back-to-back and four out of five, it was big."
Starting in place of the injured Williams, C.J. Watson pumped in a season-high 25 points with six assists. Brook Lopez, sporting a fresh buzz cut in his final game before making his first All-Star appearance, had 23 points and eight rebounds.
The Nets nailed 60 percent of their attempts from the floor in the second half, going 7 of 13 from three-point range to help the build a 20-point lead midway through the third quarter.
"We forced them to take tough shots," Gerald Wallace said. "We turned our defense up. We limited them to one shot, kind of kept them out of transition and we were able to execute offensively, get baskets and kind of run the score up. I think we did a great job defensively in the third quarter. Our offense was good. We moved the ball and made some shots. But it was our defense that controlled that game in the third quarter."
For these next few days, though, there's probably only one thing many of them want to control: the television remote.
"It's great," Johnson said. "You can enjoy your break a little bit better. We'll relax, heal some of the wounds that some of the guys have got and get back to work on Monday."