NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Avery Johnson was so angry after New Jersey’s performance in a loss to Philadelphia on Saturday night that the Nets coach called for an impromptu shoot-around early Sunday morning, hours before the Nets were slated to face the Portland Trail Blazers.
“We knew he wasn’t too pleased right after the game, even before he said we were practicing this morning,” Nets center Brook Lopez said. “He didn’t like the effort we gave and he let us know about it. He was pretty loud this morning.”
The Nets got the message.
Devin Harris had 25 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 1:11 left, and eight assists to lead New Jersey Nets to a 98-96 win over the Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
“Don’t make too much of it or in the manner of how I called it,” Johnson said after the win. “They knew I was disappointed and I just needed to see their faces this morning. I couldn’t sleep anyway. I didn’t want to raise my voice tonight. They got enough of that this morning.”
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Nets (6-11), who handed the Trail Blazers (8-8) their third straight loss.
The two teams traded the lead five times during the fourth quarter, before Harris nailed the long jumper from beyond the top of the key. Portland turned the ball over on its next possession.
“Devin was the one who really had the chance to spark us,” said forward Chris Humphries, who had 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. “I think the way we came back shows some growth. We’ve had some tough losses this year and we didn’t want another one.”
Brandon Morrow scored 14 points and Brook Lopez added 13 for the Nets.
“It wasn’t typical for an NBA player to get up and practice in the middle of back-to-back games,” said Humphries. “We can’t react to that. We knew we had to come back tonight and compete.”
Reserve Wesley Matthews scored 25 points, Brandon Roy had 21 and LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 for the Blazers.
The Nets shot 52.5 percent from the floor, 50 percent from 3-point range and 82.9 percent from the free throw line. They made 29 of 35 free throws, including all eight in the closing minute.
Roy scored seven of his 15 first half points in the final six minutes before intermission, including a fall-away jumper at the buzzer that gave Portland a 52-44 halftime advantage.
The Blazers then scored seven straight points in the opening stages of the third quarter, with Aldridge nailing two long jumpers, giving Portland its biggest lead at 62-50 with 8:48 left.
The Nets scored the next eight points, six coming from the free throw line, to pull within four at 62-58 with 6:26 left on a corner jumper from Lopez.
Harris nailed a 27-foot jumper that tied the game again at 64 with 4:24 left in the third.
Miller then took control for the Blazers, scoring six of his team’s next eight points to give the Blazers a 74-69 lead. Marcus Camby had a putback as the third quarter ended to put Portland ahead 78-73.
The Nets scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter, capped by Harris’ two free throws, to take an 80-78 lead with 10:14 remaining. The two teams then traded the lead back and forth before Harris’ late 3-pointer gave the Nets the lead for good.
“We don’t feel like we’re an 8-8 team,” said Matthews. “In the NBA, you play a lot of games in a short amount of time and you have to be able to get through this and move on.”
Notes: Troy Murphy made his return to action for the Nets after missing six games with a sore foot and back. Murphy made his first two shots of the game, one on a post-up and the other on a drive. … The Nets announced that troubled second-year player Terrence Williams reported to the D-League’s Springfield squad Sunday and will remain with that team until further notice. … Nets shooting guard Brandon Morrow now ranks second all-time in 3-point field goal percentage for those with 500 or more attempts. Morrow’s .452 career percentage from long range trails only Steve Kerr’s .454 mark. … Reality TV star Kim Kardashian was in attendance.
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