Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
Afterward, when asked if he’s beginning to expect those shots to go in, Deron Williams smiled, collected his thoughts, and simply said “You get used to it, you definitely get used to it.”
But what many may not remember about Tuesday’s exciting overtime thriller is that each and every Net played their part.
In the end, the Nets were able to overcome 34 points from Brandon Jennings and win a game that they’d seemed to have lost many times over. Yes, Johnson made the huge shots down the stretch, but the Nets probably wouldn’t have been in the game if not for Deron Williams and his solid play. Williams was on a playing time restriction heading into Tuesday’s game, but managed to muster the courage to play 45 mostly solid minutes in an overtime game.
He scored 19 points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out nine assists.
In the first half, Brook Lopez looked every bit like the game’s only All-Star, scoring a game-high 13 first half points. Through three quarters, though, Lopez managed to shoot just 6-of-13 and looked a step slow. So P.J. Carlesimo called on Andray Blatche. Blatche played the entire fourth quarter for the Nets and earned the opportunity to finish the game. In the fourth quarter, Blatche—who scored 10 points—just about equaled the scoring output of Jennings and Monta Ellis combined (11).
Gerald Wallace played his normal game. After the Bucks captured a late lead and seemed to be running away with the game, he took the challenge of battling for rebounds against the Bucks front line, and though he shot just 3-of-10 from the field, Wallace chipped in a tidy six rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
The Nets bench, which has gone MIA for segments of the season, outscored the Bucks bench, 44-15. Along with Blatche, C.J. Watson was the game’s other reserve who scored in double-figures. He chipped in 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
And obviously, none of these statistics would mean a thing if the Nets walked away with another loss. But that’s why the team has Joe Johnson. Johnson, though he’s yielding his lowest scoring output since he was a member of the Phoenix Suns, has been every bit the closer the Nets thought they were getting. Amazingly, he has hit 8-of-9 shots he has taken within the final 30 seconds of a game in which the Nets trailed by three points or less.
“Amazing” is certainly the correct adjective to describe that. Three of those shots came in Tuesday night’s game, though only two of them counted. After connecting on the game’s overtime forcing 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Johnson got another opportunity with 11.9 seconds left and the game tied in overtime.
Jennings missed a go-ahead layup and Wallace grabbed the rebound. Johnson ended up with the ball and Carlesimo immediately called a timeout.
Johnson, from the hashmark, threw up a 35-footer that found nothing but Net, only the shot didn’t count.
On the ensuing possession, after Luc Richard Mbah a Moute—one of the NBA’s premier perimeter defenders—used the Bucks foul to give on him, Johnson was left with just 5.2 seconds to create his own look and win the game for the Nets.
In the end, he came through, again.
Mbah a Moute, like everyone else, has gotten used to seeing Johnson come through in the clutch. “Joe Johnson is a phenomenal player,” he said. “This is not the first time he has made shots like this.”
That’s true. In this season alone, it was his eighth.
Afterward, Gerald Wallace joked about being on the receiving end of some of Johnson’s game winners, and he made light of it before getting serious, again. “The biggest thing that a lot of people don’t understand about Joe is that you can’t rattle him,” he said. “You can’t get him out of his game. He’s gonna get the shot he wants.”
Williams turned in a great performance, all things considered. Lopez set the tone early, Blatche spelled him late, Watson scored off the bench, Joe was cool and Wallace crashed.
Moving forward, this is exactly the type of victory that can galvanize a team and help it make a late season push to win its division. The Nets, even if Carlesimo wouldn’t say that winning 50 games is still the goal for this team, will have that opportunity.
It started on Tuesday night and will continue when the Nets wrap up their three games in four nights stretch on Friday. They will battle the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee on Wednesday night in the second night of the home-and-home back-to-back before hosting the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
Interestingly enough, with the victory, the Nets snapped a 13 game losing streak to the Bucks. Regardless of what happens on Wednesday night, they will enter Friday night’s contest against the Rockets with a similar losing streak. The Nets have lost 12 in a row to the Rockets.
They’ve ended one double-digit game losing streak to an opponent already, and now, the Nets hope to have similar luck against the Rockets on Friday.
They’ll need another strong team performance to do so.
“I think this was a team game,” Wallace said after the Nets defeated the Bucks. “Everybody did what they were supposed to do and everybody contributed to this win. We got the stops when we needed them, we got the rebounds when we needed them and we forced the turnovers when we needed them.”
He paused for a second and then finished his thought. “And Joe made the shots when we needed them.”
Usually, lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. On Tuesday night, Joe Johnson proved otherwise. Now, after battling the Bucks one more time, when Jeremy Lin and James Harden come to town on Friday, Carlesimo’s team will hope to replicate Johnson’s redundancy.