With less than 30 seconds left in a close game, there is one man the Nets want with the ball.
Joe Johnson forced overtime with a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation, and also gave the Nets a 113-111 victory over the Bucks with a mid-range jumper at the overtime buzzer.
“I just try to do a good job and try to get space and make the best play possible,” Johnson said. “My teammates [have] the utmost confidence [in me] in the huddle. The coaches and I just try to come through in big moments like that.
“I’m thinking of how they’re going to play me or what I’m going to do. But at the end of the day when I get the basketball it’s instinct, it’s reaction.”
Johnson scored 24 points and his two big shots made him 8-of-9 in the last 30 seconds of games with the margin three points or less. He hit a buzzer-beating shot in December against Detroit in double-overtime which bore a resemblance to the one Tuesday night.
Ironically, Johnson hit a 35-footer right after the Nets called timeout, but once play resumed, there was little doubt where the ball was headed. After Keith Bogans inbounded, he gave it to Johnson, who began a slight drive on Luc Mbah a Moute before crossing him over and pulling up for the jumper near the foul line.
“It was one of our normal out-of-bounds plays,” interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “Give the ball to Joe and get out of the way.”
“He just drew the play up and told me to go get a bucket,” Johnson said. “My teammates were telling me, ‘Joe, come on let’s go.’”
When the ball went in, the Nets ended a 13-game losing streak to the Bucks that dated back to when Vince Carter was in the starting lineup in March 2009. It also made Johnson 4-for-4 on shots occurring with less than 10 seconds remaining in games.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Johnson said. “Regardless of the situation whether it’s the regular season or playoffs, it’s always a great feeling and just to see everybody kind of explode and the excitement in the building is probably the best feeling.”
Johnson got the nickname “Iso-Joe” for the isolation plays run for him in Atlanta, and in four instances those same plays have worked out well for the Nets.
He began his run of clutch shots by hitting a jumper over Tayshaun Prince on Dec. 14 at the end of double overtime. That was followed by an 18-footer with 0.7 seconds left in double overtime at Washington on Jan. 4 and a pull-up jumper with 22 seconds to play at New York on Jan. 21.
“He’s like everybody knew that Michael [Jordan] was getting the ball in Chicago [for] the last play,” Nets forward Gerald Wallace said. “Everybody knew Joe was getting the ball. He just makes plays. I think the biggest thing that a lot of people don’t understand about Joe is that you can’t rattle him; you can’t get him out of his game. He gets the shot that he’s going to want to get.”
“You get used to it here,” point guard Deron Williams added. “You definitely get used to it.”
Johnson’s two big shots came on a night that saw Williams score 19 points and hand out nine assists in his return from ankle inflammation. Williams also had six turnovers, including an offensive foul with eight seconds left in regulation that forced Johnson to hit his first big shot.
Williams also struggled defensively against Brandon Jennings, who was among the reasons why the Nets blew a 15-point first half lead and needed Johnson’s heroics. Jennings scored 23 of his 34 points after halftime but did not score after regulation and missed a short jumper with 12 seconds left that would have given the Bucks a 113-111 lead.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.