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Johnson, Nets hit All-Star break on high note

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Joe Johnson isn't going to the All-Star Game this weekend, but the Brooklyn Nets guard reminded everyone Wednesday night that he was considered one of the elite players in the NBA just a year ago.

Johnson, an All-Star for Atlanta last season, led the way with 26 points and nine assists as the Nets posted a season-high point total in a 119-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets before 17,251 at the Barclays Center.

The Nets connected on 59.3 percent of their 3-pointers, sinking 16 of 27 attempts, led by Johnson, who nailed five of nine, and guard C.J. Watson, who hit five of seven. Watson finished with 25 points and six assists.

Brook Lopez, the lone Net to make the Eastern Conference All-Star team (selected as an injury replacement), wound up with 23 points and eight rebounds. Reserve Kris Humphries chipped in with 14 points.

Denver guard Ty Lawson made all five of his 3-pointers and hit eight of 11 shots overall, ending with 26 points and nine assists.

"We're capable of being one of the top teams," said Johnson, who scored 13 points and handed out three assists in the third period, when Brooklyn moved to a 95-81 advantage. "We just need some consistency. We want to put ourselves in a position to make a big push (in the playoffs).

"I'm not going to Houston (for All-Star weekend), so I'll probably just rest up and relax."

The Nets (31-22) broke a string of eight straight games of scoring fewer than 100 points, while Denver (33-21) topped the century mark for the 13th game in a row.

The Nets won their final two games before the break, beating the Indiana Pacers on the road in overtime on Monday. However, according to interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, it was more important to redeem themselves after an embarrassing loss to the San Antonio Spurs last Sunday in which the Nets scored just 29 points in the second half.

"I'm really, really proud," said Carlesimo, who improved his record to 17-8 since taking over. "When we left here Sunday night, we weren't feeling too good, coming off a half where the Spurs just dominated us. I thought we played well the entire game, but in the third quarter we played great defense. C.J. hit so many big shots, and Joe was unconscious."

The Nets scored a season-high 39 points in the second quarter and followed with 33 points in the third, outscoring Denver 72-55 in the middle two periods.

"It was probably a bad game plan," Denver coach George Karl said. "We wanted to be aggressive on Lopez and Johnson, and we probably didn't have enough energy in the tank to get out to the shooters, and Brooklyn shot the (heck) out of it."

Watson's six assists were his season high, and he set a career mark with his five 3-pointers. Rookie Tyshawn Taylor came off the bench to contribute four assists and two 3-pointers in spelling Watson. Taylor and Watson picked up the void left by Deron Williams, who missed the past two games with an ankle injury.

"When you've got one of your key guys out, it motivates guys to step up and play a little harder," Johnson said. "C.J. has been playing great. Tyshawn has been playing great. Those guys really picked up the slack."

NOTES: The Nuggets did not dress starters Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala for the second straight game. Gallinari, who leads the team with a 17.2 scoring average, and Iguodala (13.4 ppg., 4.7 assists) were replaced by D-League call-ups, 6-foot-10 center Quincy Miller and 6-6 guard Julyan Stone. Gallinari has a sinus infection, and Iguodala is out with a cervical strain. ... Karl was asked about the matchup between two of the best rebounders in the league, Brooklyn's Reggie Evans (9.3 rpg), who had 22 rebounds on Monday against the Pacers, and the Nuggets' Kenneth Faried (9.9 rpg), who hails from Newark, N.J. "It's like WWE (professional wrestling), there's going to be a lot of physical contact," Karl said. "Reggie (Evans) has done for 15 years what Faried has done for a couple. Not many players have become a foundation on a team as quickly as Faried has. I've always felt rebounding was a huge part of the fourth quarter." Evans outrebounded Faried 7-5 Wednesday. ... The Nets are 4-0 in overtime games this season and have won eight OT games in a row overall. ... Both teams return to action Tuesday after the All-Star Game on Sunday in Houston. The Nuggets are at home against the Boston Celtics, and the Nets are at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.
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