Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — After losing four straight home games, the Brooklyn Nets were desperate for a win on Friday night at Barclays Center, and it showed.
They needed two overtime periods and a 23-foot buzzer beater from Joe Johnson, but the Nets finally got the feel good home victory they were looking for since they defeated the New York Knicks at Barclays Center back on Nov. 26.
Brook Lopez played in his first game since injuring his right foot back on Nov. 28, and in 24 minutes, he shot 4-for-10, scored nine points and blocked three shots. Now, after Friday night’s victory, the Nets improve to 13-9 on the season and 11-4 with Lopez as a starter.
The victory snaps a four game home losing streak and will make the trip to Chicago for Saturday night’s matchup with the Bulls a little easier. Still, the Nets continue to perform poorly in third quarters and ended up scratching and clawing for a home victory against one of the NBA’s lower echelon teams.
Entering Friday night, the Pistons were 7-17 on the season and just 2-11 on the road.
After playing evenly in the first quarter, the Nets led by as many as 17 points in the first half and—led by 10 points from Joe Johnson and eight from Gerald Wallace—outscored the Pistons in the second quarter 36-22. Ahead by 12 after the first half, it seemed that the Nets had the game under control. But in the third quarter, the Nets shot just 6-for-19 and only managed to score 14 points. Meanwhile, the Pistons were able to take control thanks to Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe combining for 17 points in the quarter.
Because of the discrepancy, the Nets trailed heading into the fourth.
11 points is all the Nets scored over the first 10:30 of the fourth quarter and, with about 90 seconds remaining in the game, trailed the Pistons by six, 90-84. The Nets refused to lose, though, and Gerald Wallace deserves a lot of the credit for that.
After hitting a pair of free-throws to cut the deficit to two, Wallace tied the game and forced overtime after he scored on a put-back from a Joe Johnson miss with 22.7 seconds remaining in regulation.
In the first overtime, the teams traded baskets to the tune of three ties and five lead changes, but Johnson, after missing the potential game-tying shot in regulation, tied the game at 100-all with 18.9 seconds remaining in the first overtime. Rodney Stuckey of the Pistons was unable to convert on the ensuing possession, so a second overtime was necessary.
After missing their first six shots of the second overtime, the Nets trailed, 100-103. But down the stretch, it was Johnson who came up big when it mattered most. After Wallace scored a layup, Johnson made the go ahead basket with 26.2 seconds remaining. Johnson then split a pair of free-throws after the Pistons Greg Monroe missed a pair of his own and the Nets led by two points with 10.5 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing play, Knight missed a 19-footer, but Kyle Singler managed to corral the offensive rebound and again tie the game at 105-all on the putback.
Then, with 5.8 seconds remaining and the game tied, coach Johnson drew up a play for his all-star shooting guard, and Joe Cool delivered. Tayshaun Prince was assigned the task of guarding Johnson on the game’s final play, but Johnson managed to shake him loose and connect on a 19-footer that found the net as the buzzer sounded.
To this point, Johnson has been woefully inconsistent as a member of the Nets. But on Friday, when it was all said and done, Johnson had shot 12-for-22 and scored 28 points. He also added five assists and four rebounds.
Over his seven years with the Atlanta Hawks, Johnson became known as one of the NBA’s best clutch players, and on this night, after a myriad of early season struggles, Johnson finally said Hello Brooklyn.
“He’s a big shot maker and that’s what we need,” coach Johnson said. “Sometimes, games like this can kind of energize a team and we’re here because of the efforts of Joe down the stretch.”
Deron Williams also thought that the Nets owed the victory to Joe. “We fought all game and he carried us through the four quarters and the overtimes,” he said. “He’s been great, he’s getting comfortable out there and finding his sweet spots on the floor and just going to work.”
On the game’s final play, Johnson was able to create enough space from the Pistons Tayshaun Prince to prevent Prince from closing out and disrupting his shot.
“Honestly, when it left my hands, I knew it was good,” Joe said after the game. “I just wanted to get a good look at it and the players have been putting me in great position all night to come through and make big shots. That’s what I wanted to do at the end of the game.”
For the Nets, a fifth straight home loss to the Detroit Pistons would have been a disaster. Afterward, Williams was how the team would have felt if they did lose to the Pistons and he dismissed the question. “We won, so there’s no reason to talk about what happened if we lost… We won,” he said.
They can collectively thank Joe Johnson for that.