Johnson Leads Balanced Attack, Scores 23 As Brooklyn Rolls To 94-88 Victory

TORONTO (AP) — After a first half to forget, Deron Williams gave his Brooklyn Nets teammates a quick pep talk before the start of the third quarter.

Spurred on by the speech, the Nets turned their night around and snapped a five-game skid.

Joe Johnson scored 23 points, Andray Blatche had 14 points and nine rebounds and the Nets used nine second-half 3-pointers to beat Toronto 94-88 Wednesday night, ending their season-long losing streak.

“We kind of went on a run in that third quarter and never really looked back,” said Johnson, who scored 19 in the second half.

C.J. Watson scored a season-high 16 points and Williams added 12 as the Nets won for the first time since Nov. 30 at Orlando.

“We’ll take a win any way we can get it right now,” Williams said. “It’s good to get back on a winning track. It’s something we needed in the worst way.”

Former Raptors Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries both had big games for the Nets. Evans had nine points and 11 rebounds, while Humphries scored 11 points, making nine of 10 free throws.

“It wasn’t pretty at all, but I’ll take it,” Blatche said. “It was a dogfight, an ugly win, and I’ll take it. We needed it and I’m just happy we got it.”

Brooklyn bounced back one day after blowing a 17-point lead and losing 100-97 to the rival Knicks when New York’s Jason Kidd hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 24 seconds left.

“Our energy was low in the first half,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “It looked like we were kind of feeling sorry for ourselves.”

Brooklyn trailed 45-37 at the half after shooting 36 percent (13 for 36) and committing 11 turnovers in the opening two quarters.

“We definitely struggled in the first half,” Williams said. “We couldn’t get anything going, we couldn’t get stops. Nothing was going right for us.”

But Williams helped turn things around, huddling his team together on the court before the game resumed.

“We’ve just got to come out better,” Williams said, when asked about the message he’d delivered. “We need this win. The first half was over with and we’ve just got to go.”

Go they did, making six of eight 3-pointers in the third and outscoring Toronto 31-19.

“I thought their talent took over,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “They hit some tough 3s that broke our back.”

Leading 68-64 to begin the fourth, Johnson and Watson sandwiched 3-pointers around a jump shot by Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, putting the Nets up 74-66.

Toronto’s John Lucas III made a pull-up jump shot, but the Nets replied with an 8-0 run to open a 82-68 lead with 7:42 remaining.

The Raptors battled back late, with Ed Davis scoring five points during an 8-0 run that cut it to 90-86 with 17 seconds to go. Watson made a pair of free throws to push the lead back to six before a Nets turnover led to a layup for Lucas, making it 92-88 with four seconds left. Joe Johnson sealed it with a pair of free throws, capping a 10-point fourth quarter.

“We weren’t going to have any excuses if we lost this game,” Avery Johnson said. “Our guys were under immense pressure and I’m glad that they responded.”

Davis matched his career high with 24 points and added 12 rebounds, while Jose Calderon had 10 points and 15 assists. Rookie Jonas Valanciunas scored 15 for the Raptors, who have lost six straight and 12 of 13.

“We ran out of gas,” Davis said. “We were short-handed, but we were fighting.”

Toronto had just nine players available. Amir Johnson served a one-game suspension for throwing his mouthpiece at a referee in Monday’s loss at Portland. Guard Kyle Lowry and forward Andrea Bargnani, both of whom left injured Monday, were unavailable. So was forward Linas Kleiza, who missed his second straight game with a sore right knee.

Toronto announced during the game that Lowry is expected to miss 10 days with a partial tear in his right triceps muscle. Bargnani is out indefinitely with a torn ligament in his elbow and a strained right wrist, suffered after he fell awkwardly on a dunk against the Trail Blazers.

Bargnani and Lowry are second and third on the team in scoring, averaging a combined 31.8 points.

Toronto recalled rookie forward Quincy Acy from Bakersfield of the NBA Developmental League to bolster the roster. Acy arrived on a flight from California about 75 minutes before game time and was on the bench in time for tip off.

NOTES: The Raptors were also without long-term absentees Alan Anderson (left foot) and Landry Fields (right elbow). Anderson, who last played Nov. 10, is expected to return to practice Thursday. Fields, out since Nov. 7, is scheduled to see a doctor in New York on Thursday. … Nets C Brook Lopez (sprained right foot) missed his seventh straight game but is expected to play Friday when the Nets host Detroit. … This was the first in a stretch that sees Toronto play 11 of 15 at home. The Raptors opened the season by playing 15 of 22 on the road. … Actor Michael K. Williams of “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire” attended the game. Williams, who was born in Brooklyn, is in Toronto working on the new RoboCop movie.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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