Paul McCartney was in the building but it was Joe Johnson who saw the 76ers standing there making futile attempts to guard him.
Johnson did what any shooter would do when allowed the space to do so, he kept firing, and in the third quarter those shots kept going in.
Johnson capitalized on Philadelphia’s porous defense as he hit eight of his career-high 10 3-pointers and scored 29 of his season-best 37 points in the third quarter as the Nets never trailed in a 130-94 rout Monday night that earned them a standing ovation from the 16,733 fans.
“It felt great, more importantly for us to get a win and for us to be able to sit out the whole fourth quarter and just watch,” Johnson said. “That felt great. I was in the right spots a lot of times.”
“That performance that he put on was special and it was fun to watch,” head coach Jason Kidd said.
Johnson had eight points at halftime and his first shot attempt of the second half was a 3-pointer that didn’t strike the net. When the third was over, he came within one 3-pointer of the team record set by Deron Williams March 8 against Washington.
“It’s just a good feeling. You catch the ball and it seems like every time it comes out [of] your hand, it’s going in,” Johnson said. “You can’t really explain it.”
Johnson’s previous career-high for points in a quarter was 22 in the fourth quarter against Charlotte on Nov. 29, 2006. He came within five of his career high in a game and likely would have surpassed that total from March 7, 2006 against Golden State had the outcome been in doubt.
Johnson achieved his most productive game as a Net after spending the weekend nursing an illness that kept him out of practice. He had teammates telling him about the NBA record for 3-pointers, which is 12 by Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall, but when the Nets surged to a 27-point lead, Johnson was content to rest.
“When you’re out there in the heat of it, it’s something you don’t even think of,” Johnson said. “I didn’t even think about I had 29, I just knew we were playing really good.”
“That was a special performance, especially being sick,” Kidd said. “He got it going behind the arc and kept it going.”
The Nets scored 42 points and shot 68 percent in the third quarter, a period that often has been their undoing, especially in losses. Johnson played a big role in reversing that trend, hitting 10-of-13 shots, including 8-of-10 3-pointers.
His first made 3-pointer was a 26-foot shot off a feed from Deron Williams with 9:24 left which gave the Nets a 67-48 lead. The next one came with 8:41 to play and it came off another pass from Williams that made it 70-51.
After interrupting his perimeter display with a floating jump shot, Johnson made his third consecutive 3-pointer with 7:32 remaining off another pass by Williams, pushing the lead to 75-51. Johnson’s next two 3-pointers came as a result of assists from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
“I have [seen someone get that hot]. Not of recent, but yes, I have,” Garnett said. “I’ve been in the league since like Moses, not too much I ain’t seen. It’s the best feeling in the world.
“You’re so happy for the guy. You want to see how long it goes. Obviously he’s getting into the flow of the game, he’s not coming out of the flow and he wasn’t taking bad shots. It was beautiful man. He had a complete flow. It was beautiful.”
He matched his season-high with eight 3-pointers with 3:22 remaining and then hit a fade away just inside the 3-point line with 1:58 left. For his ninth 3-pointer, Johnson went coast-to-coast after rebounding a missed 3-pointer by Lorenzo Brown and calmly knocked it down in front of Philadelphia’s bench for a 96-69 lead with 53.8 remaining
Johnson’s final 3-pointer was an impressive step-back shot from in front of Philadelphia’s bench just as a defender made an attempt to close out. The bucket gave the Nets a 28-point lead and given the nature of the score, gave Johnson the rest of the night off.
“I got a little separation and I got a good look,” Johnson said.
The Nets set season highs for points, assists (35), field goals (47) and set a franchise record with 21 3-point shots. They surpassed 120 points in a regulation game for the first time since scoring 124 against Indiana on March 26, 2008.
“We’re playing against a team like Philly that gets up and down. They force the tempo and we were forced to go up and down,” Johnson said. “We had a lot of guys making plays, making the right plays on both ends of the floor, and it was making things easy.”
Besides Johnson, Williams had 13 points and 13 assists while Mirza Teletovic added 11 points in his first career start. Alan Anderson chipped in 10 points and Kevin Garnett had nine points while starting in the middle for Brook Lopez (left ankle) while Paul Pierce added 14 off the bench.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.