Tar Heels in NBA: Johnson scores 19 in return, makes big plays to help Suns end skid

By R.L. Bynum

When Cameron Johnson checked into the game midway through the first quarter, he got a huge ovation from the Phoenix crowd.

In his first game in more than two months, the cheers got louder when Johnson scored two 3-pointers in his first few minutes on his first three shots. He finished with 19 points in 22 minutes to help the Suns snap a three-game losing streak with a 117–112 victory Thursday over the Brooklyn Nets.

“I just thought he brought a level of juice to the arena that we hadn’t felt in a while,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “He got up off the bench, and you could feel the fans, the community … ‘That’s our guy.’ ”

Johnson, who produced a 17.2 game score, hadn’t played since tearing the meniscus in his right knee Nov. 4 and having surgery on Nov. 8. A Phoenix team that had lost 12 of its last 14 games welcomed his contribution, including a crucial steal late in the game.

“He brings so much, he stretches the floor, he’s a great kid and he competes,” said the Suns’ Deandre Ayton, who led Phoenix with 24 points. “He competes on both ends of the ball. He’s another piece of the puzzle we needed badly.”

The Suns are 22–24 on the season, 11th in the Western Conference, but 7–2 when Johnson plays.

After the Nets, who rallied from 20 points down entering the fourth quarter, cut the lead to four, Johnson sank a pair of free throws with 17.1 seconds left. The Nets cut the lead to three before Johnson put the game away with two more free throws with 3.5 seconds left.

“Man, I can’t tell you how good it felt to be back out there,” said Johnson, who made all nine free-throw attempts while collecting six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.

Phoenix trailed 17–16 when Johnson first came in with 5:45 left in the first quarter. After his second 3-pointer with 2:36 left in the opening quarter, the Suns led 30–21. It took him only five minutes to reach double-figure points.

Williams said that Johnson wasn’t on a minutes restriction against the Nets but that his conditioning would dictate how much he plays.

Day’Ron Sharpe played four scoreless minutes with a block for Brooklyn.

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Coby White scored 10 points and two 3-pointers in 17 minutes off the bench in Chicago’s 126–108 victory Thursday at Detroit. In Tony Bradley’s first action since Dec. 18, he was scoreless in 66 seconds, missing his only shot.


Nassir Little had 10 points and six rebounds in 17 minutes for Portland in the Blazers’ 105–95 home loss Thursday to Philadelphia.


Justin Jackson didn’t play (coach’s decision) in Boston’s 121–118 overtime home victory over Golden State.

Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic guard

Age 22 | 6–3, 185 | third NBA season | UNC 2019–20 (1 season)

Off Thursday
Season statistics — 26 games, 11.4 points, 40.6 FG%, 30.8 3P%, 89.3 FT%, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists
Next games — 7 p.m. Friday vs. New Orleans; 7 p.m. Saturday at Washington


Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings forward

Age 30 | 6–8, 225 | 11th NBA season | UNC 2010–12 (2 seasons)

Off Thursday
Season statistics — 43 games, 15.3 points, 48.3 FG%, 36.6 3FG%, 82.4 FT%, 5.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists
Next games 10 p.m. Friday vs. Oklahoma City; 10 p.m. Saturday vs. Philadelphia


Tony Bradley, Chicago Bulls center

Age 25 | 6–10, 248 | sixth NBA season | UNC 2016–17 (1 season)

126–108 Thursday win at Detroit 1 minute, 0 points, 0–1 FG, -2, -0.7 game score
Season statistics — 10 games, 25 minutes, 12 points, 4–8 FG, 2–4 3FG, 2–2 FT, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Next games 8 p.m. Monday vs. Atlanta; 7 p.m. Tuesday at Indiana


Reggie Bullock, Dallas Mavericks small forward

Age 31 | 6–6, 205 | 10th NBA season | UNC 2010–13 (3 seasons)

Off Thursday
Season statistics 44 games, 6.1 points, 37.6 FG%, 34.7 3P%, 65.4 FT%, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists
Next games 7:30 Friday vs. Miami, ESPN; 7:30 Sunday vs. Los Angeles Clippers


Justin Jackson, Boston Celtics forward

Age 27 | 6–8, 220| sixth NBA season | UNC 2014–17 (3 seasons)

121–118 OT Thursday win vs. Golden State Didn’t play (coach’s decision)
Season statistics — 19 games, 83 minutes, 15 points, 5–22 FG, 4–16 3FG, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 blocks, 4 steals
Next games — 5 p.m. Saturday at Toronto; 7 p.m. Monday at Orlando


Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns forward

Age 27 | 6–8, 210| fourth NBA season | UNC 2017–19 (2 seasons)

117–112 Thursday win vs. Brooklyn Didn’t start; 22 minutes, 19 points, 4–10 FG, 2–6 3FG, 9–9 FT, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, 1 foul, +8, 17.2 game score
Season statistics — 9 games, 13.7 points, 44.1 FG%, 42.1 3P%, 85.0FT%, 3.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists
Next games — 9 p.m. Saturday vs. Indiana; 8 p.m. Sunday vs. Memphis


Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz center

Age 21 | 7–0, 245 | rookie NBA season | UNC 2020–21 (1 season)

Off Thursday
Season statistics 45 games, 7.6 points, 71.5 FG%, 55.4 FT%, 7.2 rebounds, 0.8 of an assist, 2.0 blocks
Next games 9 p.m. Friday vs. Brooklyn; 9 p.m. Monday vs. Charlotte, Bally Sports SE


Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers forward

Age 22 | 6–5, 220 | third NBA season | UNC 2018–19 (1 season)


105–95 Thursday loss vs. Philadelphia 17 minutes, 10 points, 4–7 FG, 1–2 3FG, 1–3 FT, 6 rebounds, +2, 8.1 game score
Season statistics — 24 games, 5.8 points, 47.2 FG%, 39.2 3P%, 61.6 FT%, 2.4 rebounds, 0.8 of an assist
Next games 9 p.m. Sunday vs. Los Angeles Lakers; 10 p.m. Monday vs. San Antonio


Theo Pinson, Dallas Mavericks guard

Age 27 | 6–5, 212 | fifth NBA season | UNC 2014–18 (4 seasons)


Off Thursday
Season statistics — 23 games, 127 minutes, 41 points, 12–34 FG, 9–24 3FG, 8–9 FT, 27 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals
Next games 7:30 Friday vs. Miami, ESPN; 7:30 Sunday vs. Los Angeles Clippers


Day’Ron Sharpe, Brooklyn Nets center

Age 21 | 6–9, 265 | second NBA season | UNC 2020–21 (1 season)


117–112 Thursday loss at Phoenix 4 minutes, 1 block, 2 fouls, -6
Season NBA statistics — 23 games, 189 minutes, 78 points, 30–57 FG, 4–5 3FG, 14–21 FT, 70 rebounds, 15 assists, 3 steals, 13 blocks
G League statistics 14 games, 16.3 points, 64.4 2PFG%, 21.1 3FG%, 57.1 FT%, 12.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.6 blocks
Next games 9 p.m. Friday at Utah; 8:30 Sunday at Golden State, NBATV


Coby White, Chicago Bulls guard

Age 22 | 6–4, 195 | fourth NBA season| UNC 2018–19 (1 season)

126–108 Thursday win at Detroit 17 minutes, 10 points, 4–5 FG, 2–2 3FG, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 foul, plus/minus of 0
Season statistics 37 games, 8.4 points, 43.5 FG%, 37.4 3P%, 2.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists
Next games 8 p.m. Monday vs. Atlanta; 7 p.m. Tuesday at Indiana


In the G League

Garrison Brooks, Westchester Knicks center

Age 23 | 6–10, 240 | Rookie | UNC 2017–21 (4 seasons)

Off Thursday
Season statistics 22 games, 13.3 points, 52.1 2PFG%, 0–5 3P, 52.1 FT%, 11.9 rebounds, 2.5 assist, 0.6 of a block
Next games 1 p.m. Sunday vs. Iowa; 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. Iowa, ESPN+


Out while recovering from surgery

— Memphis forward Danny Green had offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee suffered in May, and is targeting to make his season debut before the All-Star break in February.


Get an explanation of the game score metric here.

Photo via @suns

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