Against #Celtics, #Nets Joe Johnson Delivered When It Mattered

Jim Mancari, SNYNets.com

After the Nets blew a 13-point third quarter lead Thursday night, it looked as if the Boston Celtics would retain the momentum to earn the victory. Luckily, Brooklyn fought back late to curb what would have been another painful loss.

Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson once again struggled shooting from the field, hitting on just 6-of-19 shots. However, with the game on the line, Johnson came up big when the Nets needed it most.

“You can’t worry about the last shot, you gotta worry about the next one,” Joe said after the Nets pulled out the win. “I was trying to be aggressive and make something happen.”

That, he did. In Thursday night’s win, Johnson scored seven points in the final three minutes, including hitting the go-ahead bucket.

For the Nets, a player who consistently scores 30-plus points per game in losing efforts does no good. Nets fans have seen that over the years.

On Thursday night, though, Johnson showed his value. Despite his struggles, he hit clutch game-tying or go-ahead baskets down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Although he’s  shooting just 38.5 percent on the season, he can hit big shots.

And the shots he took were by no means open looks, as he drained these shots fading away from the basket. He also hit on 3-of-4 free throws to give the Nets two-possession leads.

“The last three or four minutes of the game, I just tried to focus,” he said.

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Other than his overall shooting numbers, Johnson finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals for a strong all-around performance.

For our Rapid Recaps here at SNYNets.com, we acknowledge players who were “hot” during a particular game, but we also reveal players who were “not.” So far, Johnson has shown up in the “Who Was Not” section in four of the first seven games.

Johnson is no longer the main scoring option like he was as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. On the Nets, he’s become the third scoring option behind Brook Lopez and Deron Williams.

It’s a similar situation to when the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics assembled their “Big Threes.” Naturally, one player’s stats will decline just based on the nature of having three stars played together. Kevin Garnett’s scoring numbers decreased in Boston, while Chris Bosh has seen a statistical decline with the Heat.

However, both teams eventually won championships.

Johnson is now making that adjustment with the Nets. He won’t be expected to score like he did with the Hawks because the Nets have other sources of offense. But with the game on the line, Johnson will be called upon to knock down big shots.

The Nets have consistently featured Lopez early in games and after Thursday night’s game, Williams acknowledged that establishing the post presence is an important part of the Nets game plan.

Of course, Nets’ fans would love to see all five starters score in double figures every night, but that’s not usually going to happen.

But even when Johnson isn’t shooting particularly well, he’ll be called upon in big spots. “I’ve never lost confidence in Joe,” Avery Johnson said after the win. And now, building off of Thursday night’s win, the Nets will turn to Johnson when the game is on the line.

Former seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry made a living off of clutch performances as a member of the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. Horry eventually became known as “Big Shot Bob,” and the Nets hope that Joe Johnson can earn a similar reputation.

Johnson’s paycheck certainly trumps Horry’s, but every team needs a guy who can rise above the pressure late and be a game-changer.

Johnson filled that role Thursday and will be looked upon to be a late finisher for Brooklyn. As the team heads on its Western road trip, Johnson won’t have to wait too long to get another opportunity.

Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.