Johnson leads Nets to 114-98 win over Celtics
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NEW YORK (AP) The Nets are hoping their hot play will carry over when they hit the road.
After going 12-11 at home to begin the season, Brooklyn's confidence remained high after concluding its three-game home stand. The Nets have been unstoppable on The Barclays Center's herringbone-patterned court since beating Philadelphia on Feb. 3
"We've been playing pretty good at home as a team," said Johnson, who was 10 of 16 from the floor and 6 of 8 beyond the arc. "We got great ball movement offensively.
"Guys really getting interior defense and making plays defensively. We're gang rebounding and just helping each other. It's been beautiful to watch and it's been beautiful to be a part of."
The Nets will try to maintain that momentum during the next five days on the road, where they are 13-20 on the season. They will open up a three-game trip at Dallas on Sunday and continue at New Orleans on Monday night before wrapping up Tuesday at Charlotte.
Former Celtic Paul Pierce had 14 points, and Andray Blatche and Jorge Gutierrez added 10 apiece for the Nets, who won their third straight game and ninth in the last 10 to move within 1 1/2 games behind the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors, who lost a double overtime thriller at home against Oklahoma City when Kevin Durant hit a game-winning 3-pointer to finish with 51 points for the night.
Brooklyn moved within one game of the Chicago Bulls, who lost at Indiana, for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Pierce was in a celebratory mood late in the game during a stop in action, interacting with the crowd during a T-shirt toss.
"It's great that we're playing well at home. We know we can win at home, but the real challenge is how well we can play on the road, which is this three-game road trip," the veteran said.
"(It will be) a huge challenge for us knowing that each and every game is huge for us. That's something that we're going to have to take care of because come playoff time we may be starting out on the road."
With the score knotted at 45-all with 6:49 left in the second quarter, Brooklyn went on a 19-9 run capped by a pair of 3-pointers from Johnson and Deron Williams to end the half and pull away from the Celtics, who lost for the sixth time in their last seven games.
Boston coach Brad Stevens thought that trading baskets with the Nets during the first two quarters did them in.
"We weren't very good on the defensive end of the floor. When Avery Bradley started going off, we just accepted trading baskets instead of really getting stops," Stevens said.
Bradley scored 23 of his 28 points for the Celtics in the first half and Rajon Rondo had 12 points and 12 assists.
"The opportunities were there and I was able to knock down my shots," Bradley said. "Rondo was putting me in good positions to be able to make plays."
Johnson continued his hot shooting in third quarter by scoring 16 points, outscoring the Celtics during a two-minute stretch at the end of the quarter. Johnson made a lay-up and got fouled with 2:43 remaining, hitting a free throw on the 3-point play to extend the lead to 86-72. After a pair of misses by the Celtics, Gutierrez found Johnson for an open 3-pointer and then Johnson followed a Jeff Green basket by nailing another trey to make it 92-74 with 45.6 left.
Brooklyn has won 18 of its last 20 at home and improved to 29-10 since Jan. 1, tops in the East.
But they're still struggling on the road, something coach Jason Kidd knows they need to turn around to have success during the playoffs.
"You need to win on the road at some point to win a championship. For us, it's taking one game at a time and winning as many possible and see who we open up in the first round against, on the road or at home."
NOTES: Brooklyn's 11 straight home wins is the longest streak since they had 12 straight, Dec. 16, 2005, to Feb. 8, 2006. ... The Nets debuted an alternate gay, short-sleeve, V-neck home jersey with Brooklyn across the chest in blue lettering. They'll sport the new look during four more games at Barclays. ... Brooklyn dominated the Celtics in the paint, scoring a season-high 62 points. Their bench outscored Boston's 45-21.
Updated March 22, 2014