Nets clinch playoff spot with win over Rockets

Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson had a big game for the Nets in clinching a playoff spot.
Credit: Getty Images

While most of the Nets envisioned clinching a playoff spot regardless of how bad the first two months were, doubt crept into Joe Johnson’s mind during those trying times even as he tried to be optimistic.

“Honestly I couldn’t even see it,” Johnson said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘Eventually it’s going to turn around and it’s going to turn for us,’ and eventually it did at the start of the New Year. This is a different team, our mindset is different and the way we play is different.”

Consider Tuesday night the culmination of the 2014 resurgence for the Nets. And it was only fitting on the night a playoff berth was clinched with a 105-96 victory over the Rockets that Johnson morphed into “Joe Jesus” again with a 32-point performance.

“You know we expected to be in the playoffs,” Paul Pierce said. “This is just another step toward our goal. We’re happy with the way we’ve been playing over the last couple of months at home against quality ball clubs, but as far as making the playoffs, this is something we already expected to do. We’re happy to make the playoffs but that’s just a small goal of ours.”

“That’s something that we felt that we could accomplish as a team,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “Unfortunately we didn’t start off well and I guess some people didn’t believe it, so we just stayed the course.”

The Nets have gone from 10-21 to 40-33, the best record in the East since Jan. 1. It started when Johnson hit the game-winning shot to kick off this run in Oklahoma City.

“It means a lot,” Johnson said. “It means a lot to honestly clinch because we’ve come so far. We’ve been in an uphill climb pretty much the whole year. We’ve been playing catch up and to kind of clinch is somewhat of a relief. We understand we have a lot more work left to do.”

“We expected it the beginning of the year and we’ve been expecting it lately the way we’ve been playing,” Deron Williams said.

Coming so far also involves how the Nets have evolved at home. Booed often for poor third quarters in double digit losses, including an embarrassing 95-78 loss on Christmas to the Bulls, Brooklyn has won a franchise-record 14 straight home games and 21 of its last 23 since the Christmas Day loss.

“It means a lot because I remember a time when we couldn’t get a win here in our own building, so this is definitely a special moment,” Johnson said.

The season has been strange as the Nets turnaround has happened while Brook Lopez has been out of action with a broken foot. The injury turned the Nets into a so-called small ball team, where Johnson can post up as part of his game.

“It’s the strangest [season] because we had a moment when we were really just terrible and then we had moments when we were pretty good,” Johnson said. “So I’m glad the better part came in the second half and we’ll just keep to try keep climbing.”

Now that they’re in the playoffs, the next step will be attempting to secure home-court advantage for the first round. The Nets had home court last year but still lost to the Bulls, who they trail by 1 1/2 games for fourth in the East.

To reach this point, the Nets scored 100 points for the ninth straight game, picked up their 18th win against a Western Conference opponent and  have held a double-digit lead in every game of their home-winning streak.

The Nets achieved their playoff spot by riding the hot hand of Johnson, who had his fourth game of at least 30 points even though it seemed quiet at times. He scored 13 points in the third while making 5-of-7 shots as part of a 13-of-21 night from the floor.

Johnson’s performance extended a 54-51 lead to 83-79 before Brooklyn pulled away in the fourth. His biggest basket was a corner 3-pointer that stopped a 12-2 Houston run in the waning seconds of the third.

“It wasn’t quiet to us,” Pierce said. “We took notice.”

Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.


Tattooed, bearded suspect sought in Williamsburg bike theft:…

The suspected thief faces grand larceny charges after investigators said he entered the building on North 5th Street in Williamsburg.


Report: Rich New Yorkers don't move from NYC…

An Independent Budget Office analysis found that the wealthiest residents don't move out of the city any more or less than other New Yorkers.


Pioneers for domestic violence push on

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. Two decades have passed since the O.J. Simpson trial captivated the country. But in the 20 years…


Food truck with a mission hires at-risk New…

A group branding itself as food trucks for social justice specifically hires and trains young men and women with troubled pasts.


Review: Liking Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'…

Woody Allen's latest, "Magic in the Moonlight," concerns a magician (Colin Firth) trying to debunk an alleged psychic (Emma Stone).


Piano from 'Casablanca' up for sale at auction

An iconic piano featured in Rick's Cafe Americain in the 1942 Hollywood classic "Casablanca" is expected to be the highlight of a sale of film…


Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks more accessible than Animal…

Believe it or not, Avey Tare — the man in the mustachioed mask pictured here in the pool of blood — may have made the poppiest music of his career.


Interview: Michael Douglas likes playing jerks, like in…

"And So It Goes" star Michael Douglas talks about being shocked that he never does period movies and opens up about Edgar Wright leaving "Ant-Man."


'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.


Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report


Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.


Carmelo Anthony talks about his charity work in…

As he is used to doing every year, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony is going to visit Puerto Rico to do work for his foundation.


RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."


Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…


Ulises 1 is the world's first singing satellite

A group of artists and engineers in Mexico have unveiled Ulises 1, the world's first opera-singing satellite.


Wallscape on a budget

Skip the wallpaper and ombre an accent wall instead.