NEW YORK — Joe Johnson thought about so many missed chances by the Nets this season, unsure whether he would play another game this season.
He will — starting April 19 right in his old city.
Brooklyn clinched the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, beating the Orlando Magic 101-88 on April 15 before the Memphis Grizzlies knocked off Indiana.
The Nets and Pacers tied at 38-44, and Brooklyn earned the No. 8 seed after winning the season series. The Nets will visit top-seeded Atlanta on April 19 for their playoff opener.
“If you get in, it’s a whole new season,” Johnson said before the Grizzlies’ 95-83 victory. “Everybody is 0-0 and then you wipe your hands clean and then you give it another go.”
If Indiana won, the Nets would have missed the postseason for the first time since moving to Brooklyn in 2012. Johnson acknowledged the Nets would’ve had only themselves to blame if that happened.
“We had a rough year this year, simple as that,” he said.
But it’s not over.
Johnson, a former Hawks All-Star, was traded to the Nets that summer. Atlanta can swap draft picks with the Nets this season as terms of that deal, and that would have been even more painful for Brooklyn if it missed the playoffs and it ended up being a lottery pick.
Rookie Bojan Bogdanovic scored a career-high 28 points as Brooklyn snapped a two-game skid that put its postseason hopes in jeopardy after a playoff spot looked secure last week. The Nets would have been home despite a league-high payroll of nearly $90 million.
Atlanta won all four meetings this season, though the Nets nearly pulled out the final meeting earlier this month.
“They’re the second-best team in the NBA, record-wise. They’ve shot the ball extremely well all year. When they lose they don’t shoot the ball well,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. “We’ve got to figure out how to make them shoot the ball a little bit less then what they normally do and control the glass and score.”
The game was tied at 75 after three quarters and the Magic led by one with 9 minutes remaining before the Nets took control with a 10-0 run behind seven points from Johnson.
Johnson and Thaddeus Young each finished with 16 points. Bogdanovic, a rookie from Croatia, shot 12 of 17 from the field and made four 3-pointers.
Nikola Vucevic had 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Magic, who finished 25-57. Andrew Nicholson added 18 points and nine rebounds starting in place of Tobias Harris, who had a sore right Achilles.
The Nets had moved into seventh place earlier in the month with a realistic shot at finishing sixth after six straight victories, but consecutive blowout losses to Milwaukee and Chicago left them needing help on the last night of the regular season.
Hollins said he watched the Pacers’ double-overtime victory over Washington on April 14 that moved them ahead of the Nets and would likely watch the Grizzlies if the Nets won their game. The former Memphis coach said he hadn’t contacted anyone from his former organization to tell them to get him a victory.
Orlando opened a 65-53 lead with 8 ½ minutes left in the third quarter after a 3-pointer by Andrew Nicholson, but the Nets rallied to take the lead late in the period before the teams went to the fourth tied at 75.
“I just wanted to win the game,” Magic guard Victor Oladipo said. “I didn’t really realize the results and everything, I guess, until maybe after the game. I just want to win basketball games. I could care less what it’s for or what the outcome may be.”
The Magic went 10-20 under James Borrego, who took after the Magic fired Jacque Vaughn with a 15-37 mark on Feb. 5.
(BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer)