EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — So many of the Nets’ games this season have looked the same: a good start, a blown fourth-quarter lead, another crushing loss. On Sunday, though, the Nets were able to fashion an alternate ending in Brooklyn.
This time, the Nets managed to hold on to that fourth-quarter lead, and pulled off a surprising 116-106 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, ending their five-game losing streak. The question for 12-33 Brooklyn now is, can that victory signal some sort of turnaround or will it just be a one-shot deal?
“I can’t answer that,’’ point guard Donald Sloan said. “We’ll see.’’
One of the things that may have helped the Nets close out the game Sunday was that in the fourth quarter, Joe Johnson was handling the ball more than usual, which was by design.
“I’m going to give Joe a chance to have the decision-making in his hands in regards to throwing the ball into Brook [Lopez], or some kind of pick-and-roll with Joe and Brook involved,’’ interim coach Tony Brown said at practice Monday. “Joe’s got great experience and poise, so I just feel better about going through those guys [Johnson and Lopez] late.”
Against the Thunder, the Nets outscored Oklahoma City 31-29 in the fourth quarter, and had six assists and only one turnover.
Sloan didn’t mind deferring to Johnson late in the game.
“He’s like a big point guard,’’ Sloan said of the 6-7 Johnson. “Any time you can get him handling the ball, making plays, that makes the offense that much better. And I think me and him being out there together, you got two ballhandlers; you got two guys that can initiate offense, you got two guys that can create, two guys that have capable vision, at finding guys. He has experience, the height, the strength to do all that. So it’s a big key for us. Especially if that’s what it’s going to take to get him going, for him to handle it a little more, and come off pick-and-rolls and make decisions, I think we’re going to stick to that.’’
Notes & quotes: Johnson, Lopez and Thaddeus Young were held out of practice for rest purposes . . . Wayne Ellington scored 26 points and had seven three-pointers in the Nets’ 111-105 win Dec. 28 over Tuesday night’s opponent, the Miami Heat. “Obviously, I got hot, but at the same time, I feel like I always have good games against Miami,’’ Ellington said. “It may be that they tend to kind of forget about me a little bit, and I can get some open looks and get going.’’