With the additions of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry this offseason, the Brooklyn Nets were one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. Their starting lineup was going to have five recent NBA All Stars with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez.
After getting of to a 10-21 start and losing Lopez for the rest of the season, the Nets were quickly becoming the biggest busts in the NBA. With Williams in and out of the lineup and Garnett on a minutes limit, they needed someone to step up and be the leader of the team. In their last seven games, the Nets are 6-1 and it is because of the play of Joe Johnson. In their last five games, Johnson has reached at least twenty points in four of them and the Nets have won those four.
In that stretch, Johnson is averaging 24.4 points, 4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. All four of the Nets wins have come against teams that are currently in the playoff picture. Two of those wins came against the defending champion Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors. This streak has moved the Nets into the playoff picture in the East and within three and a half games in the division of first place Toronto Raptors.
On Thursday against the Atlanta Hawks, Johnson scored 29 points in 30 minutes on 11 for 15 shooting. He made six of his eight three pointers and grabbed four rebounds while dishing out five assists. He also played great defense on Louis Williams, holding him to nine points on three-for-seven shooting. The 127-110 victory for Brooklyn has them in a tie for seventh with the Detroit Pistons and a game ahead of Charlotte Bobcats in the East.
If Johnson continues to play the way he did when he was in Atlanta, Brooklyn will be set up to make a run at the three seed. When Williams comes back healthy, the Nets will be a team that nobody wants to face in the postseason.