Johnson, Plumlee lead Nets past Nuggets, 102-96
NEW YORK (AP) — Lionel Hollins had been trying to get a struggling Mason Plumlee to look like the player who won a gold medal with the U.S. national team in the Basketball World Cup.
With his coach counting on him more while starting center Brook Lopez recuperated from a lower back strain, Plumlee put everything aside and went to work.
Joe Johnson scored 27 points, Plumlee added 19 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, and the Brooklyn Nets rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Denver Nuggets 102-96 on Tuesday night.
“Mason did a conscious decision to go and just play and not worry about what I say. If I yell at him, if I take him out of the game, just go play. His confidence is rising,” Hollins said.
Denver led 85-78 with 9 minutes left after Kenneth Faried capped an 8-0 run with two free throws.
Plumlee, whose name recently surfaced in trade rumors involving the Sacramento Kings, ignited Brooklyn’s 19-4 run by scoring six points, grabbing four rebounds and blocking a pair of shots as the Nets took a 97-89 advantage on Johnson’s turnaround fadeaway jumper with 2:41 remaining.
“You are just in the moment, in the zone, (as) some people say, but it’s just a great feeling”, Plumlee said. “You just feel like you are anticipating things on defense, where you’re supposed to be on offense and things just come easy.”
Lopez played eight minutes and had six points and four rebounds in a reserve role. The Nets can afford to take it slow with him since Plumlee has played so well in his absence. The second-year center shot 9 of 14 from the field and also blocked three shots.
“It’s a good feeling, but it’s just something to build on,” Plumlee said. “I’m not where I want to be. It’s a step in the right direction. It feels good to where I was at. It’s still ways to go.”
Plumlee failed at flashing his passing game, a behind-the-back pass going awry and off his foot.
“Mason’s been great, man. His energy, his effort, taking the challenge and playing some of the premier 4s and 5s in this league,” Johnson said. “I think he’s been doing a tremendous job filling in for the absences of Brook.”
Jarrett Jack, who started at the point in place of an injured Deron Williams, had 17 points and eight assists. Sergey Karasev added 12 points for the Nets, who won their second straight game and improved to 11-2 against sub-.500 teams.
Ty Lawson led Denver with 29 points and had nine assists. Faried chipped in 20 points and 14 boards for the Nuggets, who lost their second straight game and have dropped nine of 12.
After Plumlee’s four straight points trimmed the lead to 85-82 with 8:08 left, Denver coach Brian Shaw called a timeout and removed Faried. By the time Faried came back in, Brooklyn already had a 97-89 lead.
“I think Mason did a great job just raising the energy level and getting the crowd involved,” Faried said. “At home, when you do that, guys get involved and it seems like the rim is as big as the ocean. It seemed like everything they put up went in.”
Nuggets: Denver is 5-8 in back-to-back games this season and dropped to 2-5 in the second end of games on consecutive nights.
Nets: Johnson was 4 of 5 from 3-point range. The rest of the team was 2 for 18. ... Brooklyn was outrebounded 51-39. . The Nets allowed Denver to shoot 22 for 43 in the first half but held the Nuggets to 14 for 39 from the field in the second half.
FOR THE GOOD OF THE TEAM
Lopez, who signed a four-year, $60 million extension in the summer of 2012 but can opt out of it at the end of the season, is receptive to coming off the bench if Hollins decides to leave Plumlee as his starter. Plumlee has averaged 18.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks over his last seven games, all starts. “Whatever the situation is, I am going to do it. I’m a coachable guy. I’m team first,” Lopez said.
Nuggets: Host Minnesota on Friday.
Nets: Visit Boston on Friday.