“He might not be there when you call on him,” Kevin Garnett explained. “But he’s there when you need him.”
Johnson, who has hit two game-winning buzzer-beaters for the Nets this season, had been shooting just 30 percent and averaging a mere 7.0 points in his previous five games.
But on Monday night, he erupted for a game-high 23 points -- nine of them in the fourth quarter -- leading Brooklyn to a 91-86 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at Barclays Center.
“Shooting is an art, man. And I’ve been doing a lot of aiming, really trying to make it instead of just shooting it,” said Johnson, who finished 10-for-22 from the field. “In that fourth quarter, that’s what Jason Terry kept telling me: ‘Just shoot the ball.’”
And that’s exactly what Johnson did.
With the Nets down 78-77, Johnson ignited a go-ahead 7-0 run with a 3-pointer and capped it with a 14-foot fadeaway. He later knocked down a 10-footer and hit a pair of free throws to clinch the win.
“[Coach] Jason [Kidd] told me I was gonna have to pick it up,” Johnson said. “He told me in the fourth quarter when I came back in that he wanted me to be assertive and make plays and take over the game, and that’s what I was trying to do.”
Johnson’s performance came at a crucial time, considering the Nets were without Deron Williams (left ankle).
“Well, we leaned on him a little bit tonight,” Kidd said. “With Deron out, we went to him a lot more and he responded. He had a lot of great looks. He understands time and score. He hit some big shots down the stretch for us.”