NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — During the New Jersey Nets’ recent four-game road trip, Avery Johnson didn’t hesitate to call out Brook Lopez and Devin Harris when things went wrong.
When you’re the best players on a so-so team, you need to step up.
Lopez and Harris did that in the Nets’ first game back in New Jersey.
Lopez scored a season-high 32 points, Harris added 23 of his 27 in the second half and took a big charge in overtime as the Nets snapped a three-game losing streak with a 107-101 win over the slumping Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
“They’ve been challenged behind the scenes,” Johnson said. “Two guys that we rely heavily upon came through. Now what I’m showing them is if they can consistently have that aggression and that attacking attitude, it makes us a better ball club. They don’t have many nights with this team where they can take off.”
Lopez, who was 12 of 19 from the field, led the team in the first half with 21 points. Harris stepped up in the final 29 minutes after being limited to four points in the opening half.
“We take the most criticism, but obviously it’s because we’re important and we know that we need to play well in order for this team to be successful,” said Harris, who combined with Lopez on a 5-0 spurt to open the extra session.
Lopez said Johnson even reminded the duo before the game about their roles.
“He said we were co-captains and we didn’t really live up to that for much of the West Coast trip,” Lopez said.
Against the Hawks, they did.
Kris Humphries added 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Anthony Morrow had five of his 13 points in overtime in New Jersey’s first home game in 10 days.
Jamal Crawford had 21 points, and Josh Smith added 20 for the Hawks, who have lost three straight and seven of nine after a 6-0 start. Joe Johnson scored 16 points and Al Horford had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“We just have to keep working,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. As you go through the course of the season, there are going to be some ups and some downs. You learn how to handle adversity. These are the types of situations that will make you stronger as a team. You don’t fragment. You pull together.”
Lopez, Harris and Morrow combined to score the Nets’ 14 points in overtime, and Harris helped ice the game by taking a charge on a drive by Smith when the Hawks trailed by four points with 22.3 seconds to go.
Lopez gave the Nets a 95-93 lead with a basket inside on the opening possession of overtime, and Harris drove the lane for a basket after Johnson missed in close.
Lopez stretched the lead to 98-93, making a free throw with 3:31 to play.
Atlanta, blown out by Boston on Monday, got within three points twice, the last time on two free throws by Horford with 1:21 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Harris took a pass from Lopez on the left side at the top of the key and swished a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 103-97. The Hawks never got closer than four the rest of the way.
The only chance Atlanta had to trim the lead below four was when Smith came at Harris in transition, but Harris stood his ground.
Harris made a free throw a second later, and Morrow hit three more down the stretch.
“I thought the effort was there,” Crawford said. “It just didn’t go our way. We expended so much energy staying around and getting back in the game. We didn’t have enough to finish up.”
Atlanta, which trailed the entire second half, tied the game at 93 with a late five-point run. The spurt featured a 3-pointer by Crawford with a minute to play and two free throws with 20.3 seconds to go by Johnson, who was fouled under the basket by Travis Outlaw.
The Nets had a chance to win the game in regulation but Harris’ jumper from the top of the key bounced off the rim.
Before the game, Johnson announced that sixth man Terrence Williams would miss two games after repeatedly breaking team rules. The coach wouldn’t discuss specifics, but said Williams has been fined a couple of times, and the message hasn’t sunk in.
NOTES: The erection of steel started at the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn on Tuesday. The Nets’ new arena is scheduled to open in 2012. … Sportscaster Bob Costas and Jets receiver Santonio Holmes were at the game. … Morrow hit two 3-pointers and has made enough 3s to qualify as the NBA’s second career leader in 3-point field goal percentage at .451 (251 of 556). Steve Kerr is first at .454 (726 of 1,999). … The Nets made 25 of 33 attempts from the free throw line. Atlanta had only 13 free throws, making 10.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)