Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/11/13
BY JIM HAGUE NEW YORK – Joe Johnson, the Brooklyn Nets' All-Star shooting guard, was battling a crippling head cold, one that kept him up all night Thursday. Then, as the Nets took on the Phoenix Suns Friday night, they lost their starting small forward Gerald Wallace to bruised ribs just six minutes into the game, then watched their franchise All-Star point guard Deron Williams go down with a deep thigh contusion in the third quarter. But the Brooklyn Nets turned to their bench to help them come from behind with a tenacious second half defense, holding the Suns to just 26 second-half points en route to a 99-79 victory over the beleaguered Suns at the Barclays Center. At one point during the game, the Nets actually trailed the Suns, a team that had lost 11 straight road games and nine of 10 overall, by 11 points. "It was headed to the point where it wasn't worth it," Brooklyn Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "Considering the circumstances, I thought we were almost at the point to let the game just play out. They outplayed us and we didn't come close to matching their intensity." Bench players MarShon Brooks, who had a season-high 17 points, and Andray Blatche, who contributed 15, came up big for the Nets (21-15), who won for the fifth straight time and improved to 7-1 for interim coach Carlesimo. The Nets are now 14-0 this season in games where the opponent owns a sub-.500 record. It marked the first time that the Nets won three straight NBA games by 20 or more points and the first time they accomplished the feat since they were in the ABA in 1975. "Our bench was fantastic," Carlesimo said. "MarShon was tremendous and Dray gave us a big night. We were banged up and found a way to win. That's very encouraging." Johnson, who missed the pregame shoot around and was a question mark right up to the opening tip, overcame the rough night of no sleep and heavy congestion to lead the Nets with 19 points. "I was really congested and couldn't breathe," Johnson said. "I called our trainer (Tim Walsh) at like 5 a.m. and we got some meds to help me rest. I came straight to the arena late. But I was going to play. It wasn't close to me sitting out." Brooks, who was buried in former coach Avery Johnson's rotation, came through with his best performance of the season. The second-year guard knew that his play was needed after Wallace was lost for the game in the first period when he suffered bruised ribs in a ferocious collision with the Suns' P.J. Tucker. "When Wallace went down, we all knew we had to step up," Brooks said. "I went out there and made some shots. I knew I had to play with energy." Blatche had nine points and Brooks seven in a decisive 28-13 third quarter. "It absolutely started on the defensive end," Brooks said. "Once we keyed on making stops, we got everything going." The loss was the fifth straight and 10th in the last 11 games for the Suns (12-26). It was the 12th straight road loss for Phoenix. The Nets blew the game wide open late in the third quarter and into the fourth, holding the Suns to just five field goals in 27 attempts during a 16-minute span. "Obviously, it was a disappointing second half," Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said. "We didn't execute at all offensively and we did a very poor job defensively. It's almost as though we start to lose our confidence once things go wrong and we can't do that. We have to be able to fight through it. "If we can play like we did in the first half, we have to understand we can play like that in the second half." Johnson put an exclamation on a 19-2 Nets' run with two consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, giving the Nets an 84-66 lead with 7:30 left. Despite the thigh injury, Williams finished the game with 15 points and six assists for the winners. Brook Lopez added 13 points and eight rebounds, despite shooting just 5 of 16 from the floor. Jared Dudley had 18 points and Shannon Brown 15 for the Suns. The two teams traded the lead 10 times in the first half, before the Suns went on a 9-2 run midway through the second quarter to take a solid lead. With Brown coming off the bench to score 13 points, Phoenix led by as many as 11 and took a 53-46 lead into intermission. The Suns shot 54 percent from the floor in the first half. The Suns shot only nine of 38 (23 percent) in the second half. "Right now, we're buying into what P.J. wants us to do, to be more defensive minded," Johnson said. "We're really feeding off that right now." NOTES: Wallace was taken home by team officials while the game was still going on. Williams was spotted with a heavy ice pack wrapped to his thigh in the locker room afterward. The status of both players will be re-evaluated Saturday. ... The Nets were without Jerry Stackhouse (hamstring), Mirza Teletovic (illness) and Kris Humphries, who was a late scratch with a sore ankle. ... The Suns were without Channing Frye, who has yet to play this season due to an enlarged heart. ... The Suns were playing their third game of a five-game road trip, while Brooklyn was beginning a streak of three straight home games. ... The rumored sale of the Sacramento Kings to a Seattle-based group that would move the Kings to Seattle was something that pleased Carlesimo. "The fans there always supported the team," Carlesimo said. "It's a great sports town and a great basketball town. It will be a very positive situation." Carlesimo spent the 2007-2008 season as the head coach of the Seattle Supersonics and keeps his off-season home in Seattle, where his wife and two sons reside. ... Carlesimo said that the Nets used their two days off for rest and recuperation, with nothing much added to the offense. "We don't want to change too many things because we're going pretty well right now."…
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