Wizards-Nets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 07, 2013
The Brooklyn Nets entered this week in a slump before showing again how formidable they can be when Joe Johnson plays well. Strong performances from Johnson could be crucial as the Nets continue to vie for playoff position. They'll look to avoid a fourth straight home loss Friday night when they meet the Washington Wizards, who could have a difficult time beating anyone without Bradley Beal. Brooklyn (35-26) had dropped four of five overall while averaging 88.8 points before a 99-78 win at Charlotte on Wednesday. Johnson, in his third game back after missing three with plantar fasciitis, had a game-high 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting. The Nets are 13-2 this season when Johnson scores 20 or more, including seven straight wins since mid-December, and 22-24 when he scores 19 or fewer or doesn't play. He's shot 38.9 percent in those sub-20 games, compared to 51.9 percent otherwise. Deron Williams, who has scored at least 20 in four of his last five, chipped in 20 points and eight assists. The Nets, a half-game ahead of Atlanta for fourth in the East and chasing New York for the Atlantic Division lead, are 4-1 when Williams and Johnson each score at least 20 in the same game. "Once they get going, they're going to keep going," Brook Lopez told the team's official website. "It opens up a ton of driving lanes and makes everything easier for everybody." Johnson tied a season high with five 3-pointers Wednesday as the Nets hit 13 in 27 attempts. Brooklyn is shooting 43.8 percent from beyond the arc over its last nine games, due in part to Williams' improvement as he's hit 48.0 percent of his 3s in eight contests since the All-Star break. He was shooting 34.7 percent before the break. Williams, though, has 11 turnovers and six assists over the past two home games. The Nets have lost the last three, one shy of its worst home losing streak since moving to Brooklyn. Washington (19-40) is the worst road team in the NBA at 5-23, and that record may only get worse if leading scorer Bradley Beal (14.2 ppg) remains sidelined. Beal, day-to-day with a sprained left ankle, was carried off the floor in a win over Philadelphia on Sunday and missed an 87-82 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday. The Wizards are 2-6 without the rookie guard, who had averaged 20.8 points in eight games prior to Sunday. Washington remains one of the league's worst teams in turnovers with 15.7 per game after committing 22 against the Timberwolves. John Wall had six turnovers in that loss and has averaged 4.6 over the past 10 games. "We're not going to beat anybody with the carelessness we had with the ball," coach Randy Wittman said. "We just don't value the basketball at all. It doesn't hurt us to have a turnover. We just throw it all over." Nene had a season-worst seven turnovers Wednesday but has played well against the Nets, averaging 18.2 points on 60.3 percent shooting in his last six matchups with them. He's scored 20 in each meeting this season. The teams split two games in Washington as Williams averaged 22.0 points and 7.5 assists while Johnson scored 16.0 per game on 50.0 percent shooting.
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