With the Nets struggling on both ends of the floor for the entire month of December, Brooklyn coach Avery Johnson decided to change things up a little as his team faced the Philadelphia 76ers at home Sunday afternoon.Johnson benched starting power forward Kris Humphries, moved Gerald Wallace from small forward to power forward and inserted little-used reserve Keith Bogans into the starting lineup. The team had two full days of practice with the new lineup in place.
“I think it was a combination of practice and rest,” Johnson said after his new lineup held on to defeat the Sixers 95-92 at the Barclays Center. “The first day, we didn’t even practice defence. We just put some new things in offensively. I think that about 60 per cent of the league is doing that [going small]. We were able to put in a lot of different offensive sets.”
Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson scored 10 of his team-high 22 points in the third quarter, keying the victory.
“We had a great practice, and that really helped us,” Johnson said. “We had some great offensive sets with a lot of movement. We didn’t have a lot of standing around, and that makes it harder for teams to defend us. It gives us a variety of options.”
Johnson’s shooting touch enabled the Nets (14-12) to snap a three-game losing streak.
The win was just the third in 11 December games for Brooklyn, which posted an 11-4 record in November. It was also only the Nets’ second win in their last seven home games. It also snapped a six-game home losing streak against the Sixers (13-15). The Nets last defeated the Sixers at home on April 5, 2009.
The Nets took the lead for good with an 18-0 run over a three-minute span of the first quarter and held the advantage the rest of the way, although the Sixers sliced the lead to one on several occasions.
The Nets had six players reach double figures. Deron Williams had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists while shooting 5-of-11 from the floor. Brooklyn also received 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists from Gerald Wallace. Brook Lopez scored 14 points, Bogans added a key 13 points, and Andray Blatche had 10.
Wallace doesn’t mind playing up to the power forward slot.
“I kind of got used to playing the four in Charlotte,” he said. “I always can bang with the bigs. It’s not something new for me. A lot of teams are playing smaller lineups now, so this gives us a new opportunity. I think it was something we were willing to try because we hadn’t been playing well, but it worked out pretty good.”
Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday had a game-high 24 points and nine assists. Thaddeus Young added 18 points and Evan Turner scored 15 for the Sixers, who attempted only 10 free throws for the entire game, hitting eight. The Nets went 21-for-30 at the foul line.
With the Nets clinging to a one-point lead, Brooklyn went on a 9-4 run to take an 81-75 lead with 5:44 left. Bogans scored five points during that span.
The Sixers cut the lead to 86-82 with 1:52 left, but Williams, still mired in a shooting slump, nailed a clutch 3-pointer with 1:04 left that pushed the lead back to 89-82. Williams hit two free throws with 7.6 seconds left to seal the win.
“We made mistakes that you can’t make on the road,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “We keep talking to the guys about the moment of truth and being able to get in the paint and find a way. We got the ball into the paint about 48 times, and we ended up getting 10 free throws. We have to continue to keep playing, hanging in there and finding a way. We keep doing other things well, but we just have to find a way.”
Notes: Collins vows to be true to his word, even if it will cost him around $75,000 to do so. In the closing seconds of Friday night’s 99-80 win over the Atlanta Hawks, Collins instructed Turner to dribble out the clock and not to score again, even though the Sixers have a promotion that all fans would receive a free hamburger if the Sixers reached the 100-point plateau, drawing boos from the 18,000-plus at the Wells Fargo Center. After the game, Collins said that he would buy the fans in attendance a hamburger out of his own pocket. ... The Nets sent forward Tornike “Toko” Shengelia and guard Tyshawn Taylor down to their D-League affiliate in Springfield, Mass., on Friday, and the pair of rookies made an immediate impact with the Armor. Taylor scored 32 points and Shengelia had a triple-double (22 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) Friday night. “They played a lot of minutes and obviously had a lot of highlights,” Avery Johnson said. “I thought they were efficient.” Both players were back with the Nets on Sunday. Shengelia played three scoreless minutes against the Sixers. Taylor didn’t get off the bench. ... Shengelia got the call over veterans Reggie Evans and Humphries on Sunday. Humphries did not play at all for the first time this season. “I had a long talk with Kris,” Avery Johnson said. “He’s healthy and fine. He’s not in the doghouse, so don’t read into it. It’s a tough situation for him, but this is the way we have to go. When I call his name, he has to be ready.” ... Nets forward Jerry Stackhouse returned to action after missing five games with a knee problem. He scored four points. ... Sixers center Andrew Bynum remains out of action with bone bruises on both knees. There is no timetable for his return. ... The visit to Brooklyn began a rigorous eight-game road trip for the Sixers.