Maybe it was the tryptophan from leftover turkey sandwiches, but the Nets were mostly flat in their 98-85 win over the Trail Blazers in yesterday’s matinee at the Barclays Center.
“We just [have] to try to pick up that [defensive energy] up in the first three quarters,” Joe Johnson said after the Nets improved to 6-1 at home this season. Johnson, who led the Nets with 21 points, added that he had “no idea” why the defensive energy was low.
Deron Williams finished with 15 points, 12 assists and a career-high four blocked shots. Brook Lopez had 15. Kris Humphries and Andray Blatche added 14 and 13, respectively. Reggie Evans’s 14 rebounds was also a career high.
“I’m trying to take what the defense gives me,” Johnson said. He shot 10-19 from the field, including 1-for-4 from 3-point range. “[I’m just] basically playing off of Brook and Deron. I just kind of got into a rhythm.”
The Nets entered the fourth quarter deadlocked 70-70 against the 6-7 Trail Blazers, who were playing without LaMarcus Aldridge. In the final 12 minutes, the Nets outscored the Trail Blazers 28-15 and outrebounded Portland, 9-5.
“We kind of let it slip away in the fourth quarter,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts. “The rebounding hurt us. Brooklyn is a big, physical team and that may have had an effect on us on offense late in the game. The Nets have four all-stars on the floor and they know how to play. With the personnel that Brooklyn has now, they have a lot of go-to players. They’re big and strong inside. They’ve got a bench that compliments its starts and bring energy to the game.”
“I sensed a spirit of urgency [in the fourth quarter], a sense we didn’t have in the first half,” said head coach Avery Johnson
The Nets coach suggested his team may have experienced “psychologically … some sort of letdown,” when the announcement was made Aldridge would not play.
All five Portland starters finished in double figures scoring, led by Wesley Matthews with 20.
While no one would directly say the Nets were looking ahead to Monday night’s nationally televised showdown with the Knicks. The Nov. 1 Knicks-Nets game was to be part of the NBA’s season-opening slate. However, Superstorm Sandy forced the game to be rescheduled.
It may have been a blessing in disguise.
“We’re a different team than we were in Game 1. We have more chemistry. We understand what to do. We feel we know a little bit more [than we did on Nov. 1],” Avery Johnson said. “I think it’s two really good teams on top of their division. We have to be ourselves.”
The Atlantic Division-leading Knicks improved to 9-3 earlier in the day by routing Detroit 121-100 at the Garden. The Nets are a game back at 8-4.
Monday night’s game is the first of four between the two franchises this season. They are scheduled to play at Barclays Center on Dec. 11, and will meet at the Garden on Dec. 19 and Jan. 21.
“[I’ve] been keeping up [with the Knicks],” Joe Johnson said. “[I’m] sure it’ll be a hostile environment … for them.”
Follow Nets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.