But after watching Joe Johnson maintain his current hot streak, it was left to Kevin Garnett to declare: “I’ve got the best seat in the house.”
Johnson torched the Hawks, with 15 of his game-high 29 points coming in the opening quarter, as the Nets flashed early and eventually pulled away to retain their unbeaten all-time record in London.
Of course, being 3-0 here matters little. Being 16-22 this season matters a lot. But with Brooklyn now claiming six wins from their past seven games, the long flight home will seem a little less wearing than they could have imagined a month ago.
With owner Mikhail Prokhorov in attendance, they set season-highs for assists (38) and field goals (53). But it was Johnson, averaging 23 points over his last four games, who shone brightest in front of a sellout crowd of 18,689.
Joe Johnson scored a game-high 29 points in the Nets' win over the Hawks Thursday at The O2 Arena.
“We just exploited the mismatches,” he said. “I was feeding off these guys for a while, taking the catch-and-shoot, guys getting in the lane. We played off Paul [Pierce] a lot in the second quarter with him posting up, and me just playing going weak side, getting great ball movement and taking good shots.”
Some were audacious, especially early on when Atlanta was shut down on the perimeter but had problems returning the favor. Then at the end of the third period, Johnson drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer that received an appreciative cheer.
Consistency is what the Nets need from the six-time All Star who is second to Shaun Livingston in games played this season on a roster that has not had a single night without someone on the sidelines.
But Johnson declared: “There’s no pressure at all. I just try to come and take what the defense gives me. And I think my coaches, my teammates, we do a great job of helping each other out, which makes the game a lot easier.”
That will remain the formula going forward, confirmed Nets coach Jason Kidd, who believes anything his team loses defensively by going with a smaller lineup can be offset by the offensive gains.
And if Johnson can maintain his pace when the Nets head to Madison Square Garden on Monday to take on the New York Knicks, then Pierce and Garnett will be only too happy to let him shoulder the load.
“As players, me and Kevin, we had days where we’ve been hot but we’ve been the only players on that team,” Pierce said.
“Now we have a teammate who, while he’s in the zone, it's fun to watch that and feed off that. Because you’ve been used to being that career your whole career or parts of your career.
“So to have a teammate who can do that, it’s fun.”
London’s (NB)A-List: The NBA always attracts a heavy list of celebrities for its annual visit to the British capital, but few can match the resume of Paul McCartney. The Beatle even sprung up during a T-shirt giveaway but looked amused when a spontaneous chorus of "Hey Jude" began when he appeared on the giant screen.
There were audible screams at the appearance of One Direction singer Liam Payne, while there was an inevitable mix of boos and cheers for the large contingent of footballers from Arsenal and Chelsea.
Curiously, a wave of sympathetic applause arrived when Hawks guard Kyle Korver finally extended his NBA record to 108 straight games with a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. Having held him to 1-for-9 shooting, it was a rare blip on an otherwise satisfying trip for the Nets.