- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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Joe Johnson delivered the first-ever game-winning buzzer-beater in Brooklyn Nets history on Friday night. What will he and his physically and emotionally exhausted teammates do for an encore? We’ll find out when they take on Chicago Bulls on Saturday night at United Center. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
LETDOWN? Johnson’s 23-footer as time expired in double-overtime allowed the Nets (13-9) to escape with a 107-105 victory over the Detroit Pistons. The 31-year-old veteran, who scored a game-high 28 points, ended up playing 52 minutes. Gerald Wallace, who finished with a season-high 25 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, played 50 minutes and hit the deck several times. Deron Williams, who suffered a left quadriceps contusion late in the first quarter, logged 43 minutes. Basically: these guys are probably spent.
The Bulls (12-9), though, don’t care. After all, they’ve been playing without their superstar, Derrick Rose, all season. Chicago, which has won four of five, ranks third in scoring defense (91.3 ppg allowed). Luol Deng and Joakim Noah both play more than 40 minutes per game, while Nate Robinson and Marco Belineli have recently been starting due to injuries to Kirk Hinrich (game-time decision) and Richard Hamilton.
BROOK-IN? Brook Lopez returned from a seven-game absence due to a sprained right foot and posted nine points, four rebounds and three blocks in 24 minutes. He said he felt fine. Nets coach Avery Johnson said the team would evaluate him in the morning before deciding if he’d play in the second half of a back-to-back. The Nets are 11-4 with Lopez in the lineup, 2-5 without him. If Lopez is out, expect Andray Blatche (18.6 ppg in seven starts at center) to take his place once again.
C’MON D-WILL: Williams is averaging 7.2 assists, three turnovers and shooting 37.8 percent in his past five games. Certainly not max contract worthy stats. There are 60 games left in the season, but is this what we should come to expect the rest of the way from a guy who has been been battling through several minor injuries and struggling with his confidence?
QUIET STORM: C.J. Watson is seven for his last eight from behind the 3-point arc. In his past three games, he’s averaging 9.7 points and shooting 50 percent from the field.
STATS COOL: Johnson gave the Nets their first buzzer-beating victory since Devin Harris accomplished the same feat on Feb. 23, 2009, against the Philadelphia 76ers with an incredible half-court heave.
3dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo