SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — It’s not often that Andray Blatche plays a pivotal offensive role for a talented Nets team loaded with scorers.
Yet it was Brooklyn’s reserve center who got things going against Sacramento on Sunday when the starters were shooting poorly.
Blatche scored 22 points to lead the Nets to their fifth straight victory, 99-90 over the struggling Kings.
Blatche was part of a huge effort by an extremely productive Brooklyn bench. He made his first 10 shots and finished 11 of 12 in 19 minutes subbing for starter Brook Lopez.
“I got to open spots and my teammates were looking for me,” Blatche said. “When the double team came I was able to make the open shots. Our starters believe in the second group because we play with energy and effort. They know we’ve got their back.”
Coming to Brooklyn has been a nice change for Blatche, who spent his first six seasons with the Wizards and grew tired of Washington’s frequent losses over the past few seasons.
“I’m not sure, but I think this is the first time in my career that I’ve been on a team that’s won five straight,” Blatche said. “I’m at a loss for words right now. It’s a good feeling to be on a team that has a good chance of winning every game.”
The Nets (6-2) matched the team’s best start since the 2002-03 season when they went to the NBA finals, losing to San Antonio in six games. Brooklyn can thank its reserves, who combined for 52 points and shot 21 of 30 against the Kings.
Deron Williams had 14 points and 10 assists for the Nets, whose longest winning streak last season was three games. MarShon Brooks had nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, Brook Lopez had 13 points and four blocks, and C.J. Watson had 13 points.
Joe Johnson, a key pickup in an offseason trade, never got it going offensively. He missed 9 of 10 shots and finished with 10 points for the Nets.
“It doesn’t have to be Deron and me having a great game for us to win,” said Johnson, who helped seal the victory by making 8 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter. “We can come at you offensively in a lot of different ways. I’m not worried about it (my shot) at this point, it will come.”
DeMarcus Cousins had 23 of his 29 points in the second half for the Kings, who have dropped five straight. Tyreke Evans had 21 points and seven rebounds and Marcus Thornton added 12 points.
Struggling to find a cohesive lineup, Kings head coach Keith Smart started Aaron Brooks at point guard and John Salmons at small forward. The move paid off early with the Kings jumping out to a 16-8 lead, but they trailed 21-20 after one quarter.
“Overall, when you make some changes like we have it’s hard, but they were smiling for the most part,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. “This is an adjustment period. That’s something we have to go through to get out team turned around.”
The Kings got to within three early in the fourth when Thornton connected on back-to-back 3-pointers. Brooklyn never lost the lead and increased it to 84-74 with six unanswered points, the final two on a driving hoop by Brooks at the 4:42 mark.
“MarShon came on strong in the second half for us and was making some really good plays,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “That’s probably the most composed I’ve seen him play since I’ve been here. I’m really proud of our young guys MarShon, Blatche and C.J.”
Brooklyn cooled off in the third quarter after shooting nearly 54 percent in the opening half. But the Nets still maintained a 74-65 lead and closed the third with a 7-0 run which included a three-point play by Reggie Evans.
“Brooklyn is playing great right now,” Thornton said. “They have a great point guard, a great shooting guard, and are solid all around. The rest of the guys fit in and play their roles well.”
After a poor first half where he shot 3 of 12, Cousins got going in the third quarter to keep the Kings close. The Kings center made 5 of 5 shots from close range and had 12 points, and Evans contributed seven.
Blatche exceeded his previous season high of 15 points in the first half. He was 9 of 9 and had 18 points in the opening half, helping the Nets take a 54-42 lead at the break. Lopez scored 12 points and Watson also gave Brooklyn a huge lift off the bench with 11.
“We got him (Blatche) three easy layups in the first quarter, that’s how you get in a rhythm,” Williams said. “After that he had that feeling that he couldn’t miss.”
Notes: Sacramento is last in NBA attendance and has drawn crowds of 12,000 or less in four of its six home games this season. The attendance was 11,965 for the rare Sunday matinee. . Brooklyn’s reserves outscored the starters 34-20 in the first half. . Gerald Wallace started for the Nets after missing the last five games with a sprained left ankle. . Johnson went scoreless until making a jumper at the 10:03 mark of the third quarter.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)