'Joe Jesus' answers Nets' call in the clutch
March, 24, 2014
By Bryan Gutierrez | Special to ESPNNewYork.com
DALLAS -- Joe Johnson came to the rescue again for the Brooklyn Nets as they gutted out a gritty 107-104 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Johnson scored five of his team-high 22 points in overtime, including a 3-pointer with 3:57 remaining that gave Brooklyn a lead it would never relinquish.
The Nets needed his heroics just to get to overtime. After Dirk Nowitzki shot an air ball on a fadeway, Johnson drove for a layup to tie the score at 91-all. Monta Ellis missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer in regulation.
"We love giving the ball to Joe, Joe loves having the ball," Nets coach Jason Kidd said after the victory. "Joe has been doing that for us all season. That's why he's an All-Star and one of the best at what he does."
Nicknamed "Joe Jesus" by Kevin Garnett, Johnson has delivered in the clutch for his team. Over the past two seasons, Johnson is 7-for-7 in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime when his team is tied or behind by three points or less. This season he is 3-for-3 with two game-winning buzzer-beaters (Nov. 15 in Phoenix and Jan. 1 in Oklahoma City).
AP Photo/LM OteroJoe Johnson nailed big shots in his 22-point effort.
"He's clutch, man," guard Deron Williams said of Johnson's ability to deliver. "That's the reason the ball is in his hands at the end of games."
Putting him in a situation to succeed has definitely correlated to success for the Nets. Brooklyn is now 14-4 this season when he scores at least 20 points in a game.
"I just wanted to be aggressive," Johnson said of his performance. "The coaching staff, my teammates were running plays to get me the ball. I just wanted to be effective and make plays."
Just like any scorer, Johnson revels in having the ball in his hands at the end of the game with the game still up for grabs.
"Those are moments I really relish and I love," Johnson said.
In addition to Johnson's heroics, the Nets needed defense, trust and composure to secure the win. They went on a 14-0 run (from the 1:36 mark of the third quarter through the 10:09 mark of the fourth) to turn a 72-59 deficit into a 73-72 advantage. Their defense on Nowitzki allowed them to get back into the game down the stretch. Nowitzki finished the night with 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting. He was 1-of-10 in regulation, including a couple missed, one-legged fadeaways as the Mavericks tried to nurse their lead down the stretch.
The double-teams on Nowitzki from when the two squads met back in January continued to come in this matchup. The mixed coverages, even with smaller lineups, caused Nowitzki to lose his aggression.
"I kind of hesitated too much and I was kind of always waiting on the double-team, instead of just playing my game," Nowitzki said.
Nowitzki only shot 7-of-27 from the field against the Nets this season. Kidd took the conservative approach when grading his team's defensive effort on Nowitzki.
"We got lucky," Kidd said. "Against talented players like Dirk, you just hope that they miss. Guys made it extremely tough. We showed him different looks, gave him different guys on him. He had some great looks that he usually makes. Again, we just got lucky tonight."
Brooklyn's defense certainly bent but didn't break against Dallas, setting the stage for Johnson to do what he does best in the clutch: deliver.