CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Desperate Nets coach Avery Johnson tweaked the travel schedule to create a spark, and big man Brook Lopez remembered how to rebound.
Combine that with a brutal performance by the home team and New Jersey was able to celebrate a road victory for the first time in nearly two months.
Lopez reached double figures in rebounds for the first time since Dec. 1, grabbing 11 to go along with 31 points, and the Nets never trailed in beating the sluggish Charlotte Bobcats 94-89 on Friday night to snap a 12-game road losing streak.
Searching for answers with a 3-24 road record, Johnson had the team fly to Charlotte early Thursday to hold practice at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“I liked the way they looked (Thursday) in our little session. They got after it hard,” Johnson said. “We totally changed up our routine. Nobody complained about it because we really didn’t have another choice but to try something else.”
Devin Harris added 16 points and eight assists, and Kris Humphries had 15 points and 14 rebounds for the Nets, who raced to a 12-2 lead and led by as many as 19 points in their second straight win.
Maybe the Nets have some more early departures ahead after recording their first road win since Dec. 21 at Memphis.
“I think that maybe we needed a little bit of a different rhythm to what we were doing and that might have provided that for us,” Humphries said. “Who knows if (Johnson) is going to do that every time. Coaches do something different and you get a win and they want to keep it the same until it doesn’t work.”
Suddenly, nothing is working for the Bobcats.
A day after Bobcats owner Michael Jordan played in a practice scrimmage with his team, the NBA great could only watch in his bright purple shirt as the Bobcats had one of their worst performances since coach Paul Silas replaced Larry Brown.
The Bobcats shot 43 percent, missed 12 free throws and their defense forced only five turnovers in a damaging loss for their postseason hopes. Charlotte fell two games behind Indiana for the final playoff spot.
“We didn’t come to play. We acted like we were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference,” said Gerald Wallace, who had 20 points and nine rebounds. “We didn’t have any energy, no fight.”
Stephen Jackson, who scored 21 points, had a similar view two nights after a disputed loss to the Pacers in which a foul wasn’t called on Jackson’s shot at the buzzer.
“Our attitude was that they were gong to lay down and we’d just walk over them,” Jackson said. “But we’re not that good. We’re not even close to being that good.”
The Bobcats did make a late charge, with Jackson’s 3-pointer cutting the deficit to 83-79 with 3:10 left. But Harris hit a turnaround to spark a 6-0 run that put it away.
Lopez’s performance on the boards helped keep Charlotte at bay, too. Johnson has been spending extra time working with the 7-footer, who entered averaging just 5.6 rebounds per game, surpassing 10 boards only twice.
Lopez helped New Jersey hold a 48-42 rebounding edge to offset 41 percent shooting from the field. It marked only his second double-double after 33 last season.
“I just tried to crash a lot more,” Lopez said. “I felt active on the glass tonight.”
In a game perhaps fitting for the 28th- and 29th-ranked scoring teams in the NBA, the Bobcats missed their first eight shots. There was another stretch early in the second quarter in which the teams combined to miss six consecutive free throws.
But when Lopez started getting going offensively, the Bobcats couldn’t match his intensity. Lopez had 19 points at halftime as the Nets rocketed to a 52-37 lead.
With Lopez hitting fadeaways out of the post, the Nets’ lead swelled to 65-46 midway through the third quarter.
The Bobcats rallied early in the fourth quarter, but had too many poor performances to overcome.
Point guard D.J. Augustin was held to four points and two assists on 2-of-10 shooting. Boris Diaw missed eight of 13 shots.
“This was a must win,” Wallace said, “and we didn’t show up.”
Notes: Johnson laughed when asked if he scrambled to draw up a game plan when he found out Jordan practiced Thursday. “I tell you, man, Michael’s the one guy who still could probably do it at 48,” he said. … After letting G Orien Greene go following the expiration of his 10-day contract, Johnson indicated the Nets could sign a big man after the All-Star break. … Johnson said F Damion James (broken foot) has been cleared for full contact and will likely practice Tuesday barring a setback.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)