ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Joe Johnson helped the surging Brooklyn Nets handle the absence of Brook Lopez.
With Lopez sidelined for the first time this season, Johnson helped fill the void with 22 points and the Nets earned their fifth straight victory, holding off the Orlando Magic 98-86 on Friday night.
Gerald Wallace added 20 points, including five 3-pointers, as all five Brooklyn starters reached double figures.
“I think we just got a little more focused,” said Deron Williams, who finished with 11 points. “We came in and talked as a team. Our team wasn’t where we were supposed to be defensively in the first half. I think we decided we were going to lock up and get serious because we got stops and it made us get out and run and get some easy baskets.”
Lopez sat with a mild right foot sprain and is day to day.
But it turned out that the Nets’ hot shooting and defensive speed was more than enough to make up for what he normally provides in the middle.
“We did a much better job of coming out and really being focused and taking care of the ball,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “We didn’t really didn’t really have our normal Brooklyn Nets’ focus, but we came out focused in the third (quarter) … which enabled us to get our defense in.”
The victory was the Nets’ third this season over the Magic and Brooklyn wraps up its three-game road trip in Miami on Saturday.
Glen Davis had 16 points to lead the Magic, who lost their third straight game.
Avery Johnson said before the game that he wasn’t worried about his team being flustered offensively because of his confidence in backup Andray Blatche.
Brooklyn was a little timid in the early going, but was able to relax in the front court as its shooters began to stretch the Magic out defensively.
The Nets connected on 11 of 20 3-pointers to make up for Lopez’s normal inside production.
While Wallace carried most of the load from beyond the arc, Johnson picked apart the Magic defense with midrange jumpers.
Meanwhile Johnson’s counterparts– Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick — were a combined 2 for 14 from the field. As a team, the Magic were also 1 for 11 from the 3-point line. That came after Orlando went just 2 for 15 from beyond the arc in Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Spurs.
“That’s a big discrepancy,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I think we had good looks tonight from 3 that just didn’t go in and that’s part of basketball.”
Orlando begins a five-game road trip Sunday in Los Angeles. It will be the Magic’s first meeting against Dwight Howard since trading the All-Star center this past summer.
The Magic were short-handed as well Friday, as point guard Jameer Nelson sat with a sore left Achilles tendon.
It was the latest health issue to confront Nelson, who missed his seventh game this season, after having previously been sidelined with hamstring and groin issues.
E’Twaun Moore started in his place and managed to hold his own opposite Williams, at times pushing the tempo for a Magic offense that had been stagnant in the half court in recent games.
But it wasn’t enough as Orlando tired down the stretch and wilted as Brooklyn pushed the pace in the second half.
The big run came just after halftime as the Nets grabbed some momentum in the third quarter and used a 15-4 spurt to take 69-56 lead.
Wallace made two 3-pointers during the run and had four makes from long distance in the quarter.
The Nets led 76-65 at the start of the fourth quarter, with Blatche becoming more active inside after a slow start.
Johnson also began to heat up, scoring six points in the period as the Nets’ lead grew to 20.
Brooklyn led 45-44 at halftime, as an energized Magic team attacked the basket and took advantage of Lopez’s absence underneath, outscoring the Nets 28-18 in the paint.
Orlando also limited the Nets’ second-chance opportunities and managed to hold a 19-17 rebounding edge.
Notes: Johnson, who played for San Antonio’s 1999 championship team, said his former coach Gregg Popovich has always looked out for his players’ well-being first. That includes resting them as he sees fit. “I think Pop knows his team. He knows what’s best for his team,” Johnson said. “My main thing is I can’t tell him how to run his team. I think he does a great job historically. And whatever he’s done over his coaching career, it’s worked. He knows his team better than anybody and I’m sure he makes decisions to give his team the best chance to win in the short term and the long term.”… Brooklyn F Tomike Shengelia was inactive for the fourth straight game with a sprained left thumb.
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