BROOKLYN - Perhaps there have been better quarters by an individual in the history of the NBA, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone at the Barclays Center who witnessed anything better than what Joe Johnson did during the third quarter last night.
Johnson scored an amazing 29 points in the third and finished with 37 as the Brooklyn Nets drilled the 76ers, 130-94. It was the Sixers' seventh straight loss, 11th straight on the road and 15th in 17 games. They are 7-19; Brooklyn improved to 9-15.
The Sixers allowed the Nets to set a franchise record with 21 threes, the second game in a row a team has set that mark (Portland made 21 on Saturday). It is also the sixth time this season the Sixers have allowed 15 or more threes in a game, an NBA record for a season. And there still are 56 games to go.
"I got into a little bit of a rhythm," understated Johnson, whose 10 threes were the most in an NBA game this season. "It just seems as though you get in the right spots at the right times. I had a lot of open shots out there."
As did most of the Nets, who shot 60 percent. The Sixers' defense has become scary bad and solutions might not be that easy to find.
"We can't guard anybody, we can't guard our own man," said coach Brett Brown. "When you start looking at every one of the threes . . . you categorize and you assess how did it happen. It starts with individual breakdowns and then we're trying to put out fires all behind it. We give them credit because they shot the hell out of it but I think it started with our inability to guard our man.
"We cried too much to refs looking for fouls and we don't get back and we whine a lot right now."
Johnson gave them reasons for all-out bawling.
After an unexpected sluggish start to the season, the Nets are finding their groove, mainly due to the return of healthy point guard Deron Williams. He has been back in the lineup for four games after a sprained ankle kept him sidelined for nine. Not coincidentally, the Nets have won three of those and seem to have gotten past the in-house problems that have surrounded rookie coach Jason Kidd.
For the season, the Nets were averaging 95.3 points a contest going into last night. In the four games since Williams has returned, they are scoring at a 108.8 clip. No one benefited more from Williams' backcourt wizardry last night than Johnson, who outscored the Sixers by 29-25 in his amazing 12 minutes.
Johnson made 10 of his 13 shots in the quarter, including 8-for-10 from three-point range. As varied as the Nets' scoring was in the first half, it was a dazzling one-man show in the third as Johnson drained jumpers from all over Brooklyn (some nearly as far away as the Bronx). He used his 250-pound body to create space and his quick release to finish things off.
The NBA record for points in a quarter is 33, shared by George Gervin and Carmelo Anthony. Johnson's output was the fifth-highest one-quarter total. His eight threes in the quarter equaled the NBA record set by Michael Redd in 2002 with Milwaukee.
Williams finished with 13 points and 13 assists, seven of them coming during Johnson's third-quarter barrage. Johnson also had seven rebounds and five assists.
"He got into a rhythm and D-Will did a good job of finding him and kept him going," said James Anderson, who was covering Johnson much of the third and led the Sixers with 17 points. "He hit some tough shots. I challenged him, had a hand nearly on his face and he still knocked them down."
The first half was a familiar script for the Sixers as they allowed the Nets to make 51 percent of their shots and score 58 points in digging a 10-point hole. Over the past three games, opponents are averaging 61.7 points in the first 24 minutes of the game. At the Barclays Center, it appeared as if the Nets could get good shots whichever way they chose. There was a plethora of open jump shots, successful backdoor cuts, fastbreaks, driving lanes, you name it.
And if that wasn't bad enough, Brooklyn decided to ratchet it up even more in the third quarter by hitting 10 of its first 12 shots, including four three-pointers. The team was just a sideshow, however, to the antics of Johnson.