Starting Five: Optimistic streak

NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets didn't expect their first winning streak to come following regular-season Game No. 21. But it is what it is, and they'll take it.

"I didn't even think about that or put that into play, but you just have to smile and chuckle at it, because it was just something I never even envisioned coming into this season," Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson said.

The Nets (7-14) are now just two games behind the Boston Celtics, who they defeated 104-96 Tuesday night, for first place in the Atlantic Division and the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Point guard Deron Williams (ankle) had a huge game in his return to the lineup following a nine-game absence, posting a season-high 25 points and seven assists in a season-high 37 minutes. Williams was dominant, at one point scoring seven straight points in the fourth quarter on shots with a high degree of difficulty. Center Brook Lopez added 24 points. Small forward Alan Anderson, power forward Kevin Garnett and center Andray Blatche also finished in double figures.

Offensively, the Nets shot a season-high 55.7 percent. Defensively, they held the Celtics to 43.8 percent shooting, which is pretty good.

More importantly, they gained some momentum and a realization that they can be a pretty darn good team when healthy.

"I thought we showed some glimpses. But I'm not gonna get ahead of myself," Johnson said. "We've won two in a row and hopefully we can build on it. But I'm not gonna get too ahead of myself. I'm just glad that we got the win."

Question: How optimistic are you about the Nets?

In case you missed it: Paul Pierce may move to the bench full-time, though nothing is set in stone.

Pierce and Kevin Garnett weren't too emotional about facing their former team.

Plus, Ohm Youngmisuk's column on D-Will's dominating performance and my notebook on some defensive changes that could end up paying dividends.

Stat right: The Nets hadn't won consecutive games since Games 5 and 6 of the first round of the playoffs last season.

Up next: I'll have you covered at Wednesday's practice.