Without Johnson, who sat out his first game of the season due to a sore left heel, the Nets failed to complete what would’ve been an incredible comeback and lost to the Houston Rockets for the 13th straight time, 106-96, on Friday night at Barclays Center.
The Nets (33-23) had their four-game winning streak snapped but remain just a game behind the New York Knicks, losers in Toronto on Friday, in the Atlantic Division.
The Rockets took control with a 13-0 run spanning the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth quarter, which turned a two-point edge into a 15-point lead. The Nets got within three, but Keith Bogans missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 2:10 left. Brooklyn would never get any closer.
The Nets ended up shooting 10-for-30 from 3-point range, while allowing the Rockets (31-26) to shoot 53.2 percent from the field and drain 16 treys. Brooklyn is 15-21 this season against .500-or-better opponents.
HANGOVER GONE: Brook Lopez, who had gone 9-for-30 in the first two games since making his first All-Star appearance, finished with a game-high 27 points on 13-for-21 shooting. He added six rebounds and even got to play substantial fourth-quarter minutes.
WONDER REMEDY: After receiving a third set of cortisone shots in both of his ankles on Thursday, Deron Williams had his third straight quality showing of the second half, scoring 15 points and dishing out a game-high 13 assists for his first double-double since Jan. 26. He shot just 5-for-17 from the field, though. His counterpart, Jeremy Lin, who received more cheers than D-Will during pregame introductions, had nine points and six assists.
JOE’S REPLACEMENT: C.J. Watson, starting in place of Johnson, finished with 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting. The Nets fell to 8-1 when Watson scores at least 11 points.
NOT SO HARD-EN, IS IT? James Harden, who had been averaging 34.8 points in his previous five games, was held to "just" 22 points on 7-for-14 shooting. He did close the third on a personal 7-0 run to give Houston a nine-point lead heading into the fourth. He also had a huge three-point play in the final period.
FIRST-HALF RECAP: The Nets got to 25 points combined for Lopez and Williams, but the Rockets shot 58.1 percent, went 8-for-15 from 3-point range and put up 61 points to take an eight-point lead into the break. Houston led by as many as 10.
TENSIONS ESCALATE: Bogans and Harden had to be separated after jawing at each other following a timeout with 4:24 left in the second quarter. Both were issued technical fouls. According to the YES Network, Bogans told Harden, “Don’t cry to the refs.”
ALLEY-OOP: Lopez put home an alley-oop pass from Williams in the third quarter. It is believed to be just Brooklyn’s third alley-oop conversion of the season.
WHO’S IN THE HOUSE? Mikhail Prokhorov, Jay-Z, Questlove
UP NEXT: Nets versus Grizzlies on Sunday at 7 p.m.