NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The New Jersey Nets are finally showing signs of learning how to play as a team, now that the games don't really count.
Deron Williams had 19 points and 13 assists in fighting off the lingering effects of the flu, leading the New Jersey Nets to a 110-98 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
The win was the Nets' fourth in six games and it kept their microscopic playoff hopes alive with nine games left in the season.
``We have been pretty good in this little stretch since the Utah game,' Nets coach Avery Johnson said. ``We could very well be on a five or six-game streak at this point had that Kobe (Bryant) fellow not thrown in a 40-foot shot on us that hit the rim four or five times.'
Bryant's late fourth-quarter, shot-clock dagger Tuesday gave the Lakers a late four-point lead and it helped snapped a season-high three-game New Jersey winning streak.
With Williams sidelined Wednesday, the Nets dropped a decision in Portland but righted themselves on Friday night.
Williams said the addition of Gerald Wallace at the trade deadline, the signing of D-League player Gerald Green in midseason and the play of rookies MarShon Brooks and Jordan Williams has been positive.
Deron Williams also did not hesitate when asked how the team would be next season in Brooklyn with a healthy Brook Lopez at center and him back at the point guard spot should he decide not to opt out of his contract.
``We'd be a playoff team,' Deron Williams said. ``I think so.'
Against the awful Wizards, the Nets (20-37) looked very good.
Wallace added 19 points and reserve Anthony Morrow had 17. Brooks, who saw a lot of action at point guard, chipped in with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists as New Jersey shot a season-best 56.3 percent from the field.
Before the game, the Nets said Lopez would be sidelined for the rest of the season because of injuries to his right foot and ankle. He played in five games.
``He is one of our best players, a 7-footer who can score from anywhere, commands lot of attention, double teams and knows how to play the game,' Williams said.
John Wall had 18 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Wizards (12-44), who have dropped five straight and 10 of 11.
``We just dug ourselves a hole like we did last night and we let them do whatever they wanted,' Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. ``We got what we deserved.'
Kevin Seraphin had 15 points and nine rebounds for Washington, whose futility showed when Chris Singleton missed a breakaway dunk early in the second half.
``That was crazy, a fast break,' Singleton said. ``I don't know. I just started laughing. It was just one of those nights.'
Kris Humphries added eight points and 12 rebounds, and rookie Jordan Williams scored a career-high 14 points on 7 of 7 shooting.
The Nets never trailed. They built a 15-point lead in the first quarter and only allowed Washington to get as close as seven - and that was in the second quarter.
``We came out and our main thing was to try to get ahead and try to take them out of the game before the jet lag settled in,' Wallace said.
Trailing 67-48 in the third quarter, Wall made a remarkable reverse dunk on an alley-oop pass in a 13-3 run that cut the Nets' lead to 70-61 with 4:15 left in the period.
Morrow hit a 3-pointer and a jumper early in a 13-5 spurt to end the quarter and the Nets walked into the final quarter with an 83-66 lead that only got larger until the final minutes.
NOTES: Wearing goggles, Nets C Shelden Williams returned to the lineup after missing the last four games with an injury to his right eye. It was his 100th career start. ..The Nets announced on Wednesday that backup PG Jordan Farmar would miss the rest of the season with a groin injury. ...Wizards starting F Trevor Booker and C Nene remain sidelined with plantar fasciitis. New Jersey won the season series, 2-1 the first time they've done that against Washington since 2007-08.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved