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Johnson, Nets continue surge with 103-80 victory over Knicks

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Deron Williams and the Nets' reserves were toying with the Knicks when their fans joined in the fun, belting out a "Brook-lyn!" chant that seemed as loud as when they're home.

"That was nice," centre Andray Blatche said with a grin.

For the Nets, Monday's game at Madison Square Garden looked good and sounded even better.

Joe Johnson scored 25 points and the Nets sent the Knicks to a fourth straight loss with a 103-80 victory, evening this season's New York rivalry at a game apiece.

"Obviously when we first played them, they embarrassed us," centre Kevin Garnett said. "So obviously we needed to come back and get a payback, and kind of redeem ourselves because lately we've been playing better basketball and today was a great job of what we've been doing lately."

Making a triumphant return from London and completing a three-game, three-country road trip, the Nets improved to 7-1 in 2014 and avenged last month's blowout loss with a romp of their own.

Blatche had 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Alan Anderson scored 15 points for the Nets.

Williams finished with 13 points in his return from a five-game absence, coach Jason Kidd bringing him off the bench rather than break up a starting lineup of Johnson, Paul Pierce, Garnett, Shaun Livingston and Anderson that is 5-0.

Williams said the reserve role was his idea.

"Just because we've been playing so well with that lineup. Why shake things up?" Williams said. "It doesn't matter if I come off or start."

The starters weren't needed for the fourth quarter after the Nets built a 16-point lead through three, then blew it open behind Williams, Blatche and Mirza Teletovic early in the fourth.

Carmelo Anthony had 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who beat the Nets 113-83 in Brooklyn but were hardly ever in this one. They lost on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for the fourth straight time, the last two both at home to the Nets.

"It's tough. It's a tough situation," Anthony said. "Like I've said, I never dealt with something like this before."

The Nets had the look of a flop in the Dec. 5 game, but they have been a different team since the new year. Johnson has been the biggest reason for their turnaround, averaging 24.5 points in the last six games.

Back in New York but not quite home, Brooklyn completed their recent journey with a 2-1 record. It started with a loss in Toronto, their only one of 2014, before a rout of Atlanta on Thursday in London.

"It's been fun. We want it to keep going, so we're going to keep working hard," Johnson said. "We know why we've won seven of the last eight, so we're just going to keep working hard, keep playing together."

The Knicks also appeared to be turning it around earlier this month, winning five in a row before their current skid. But they simply lack the talent to overcome the injuries they are facing now to Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin, both out with sprained left ankles.

"It's multiple things that have gone wrong," centre Tyson Chandler said. "We've got to find better continuity on both ends of the floor, offensive and defensively."

They did get back guard Pablo Prigioni after he missed 16 straight games with a broken big toe on his right foot. He started with Raymond Felton in a two point guard lineup that was successful last season, but Felton shot 2 for 11 for nine points in his second straight dreadful performance.

Prigioni missed all three shots and finished with two points and five assists.

Williams was sharper after his latest absence for ankle problems, scoring just seconds after checking into the game in the first quarter on a drive into the lane. Williams, who has missed 16 games this season, played 27 minutes.

Johnson scored 12 points in the first quarter, five during a quick 7-0 spurt that gave the Nets an 11-point lead. Another run of seven in a row extended Brooklyn's lead to 37-21 early in the second, and it reached 18 later in the period before the Nets settled for a 52-38 halftime advantage.

NOTES: Stoudemire hosted breakfast for more than 600 Madison Square Garden employees Monday morning, the third time he has held the event to thank them for their support. ... There was no noticeable reaction from fans when Kidd was announced as Nets coach during starting lineups, even though he played last season for the Knicks.

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