Johnson is Nets’ Ol’ Reliable
Puts on shooting clinic in rout of Philadelphia
Last season, Joe Johnson was tabbed Brooklyn’s Mr. Big Shot for his ability to make game-winning baskets in crunch time.
Thus far this year, Johnson has established himself as the Nets’ Ol’ Reliable.
The only Brooklyn starter to appear in all 24 games thus far this season, Johnson had quietly been the Nets’ most consistent player entering Monday night’s game in Philadelphia.
But there was nothing remotely quiet about his performance in the Nets’ 130-94 blowout of the 76ers in front of 16,733 fans at the Barclays Center.
With All-Star center Brook Lopez (ankle) missing his ninth game of the season and second in a row, Johnson put on a shooting clinic for the ages against Philadelphia, drilling 13-of-20 shots, including a mind-bending 10-of-14 from 3-point range, en route to 37 points.
“My teammates kept telling me, ‘When you catch it, shoot it,” revealed Johnson, who tied an NBA record for 3-pointers in a period with eight in the third quarter, when he put up 29 of his season-high point total.
Perhaps lost in the shuffle this past offseason following the acquisitions of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry, Johnson remains Brooklyn’s most potent outside threat.
He drove that point home from start to finish Monday night as the Nets easily posted their fourth victory in five games entering Wednesday’s date with the Washington Wizards in Downtown Brooklyn.
With the contest well in hand entering the fourth quarter, Nets coach Jason Kidd wanted Johnson to keep shooting in the hopes that the six-time All-Star could tie, or even break, the league mark for made 3-pointers (12), held by Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall.
But Johnson wasn’t looking to chase records, especially not with the way the Nets have lost players to injury during their 9-15 start to the campaign.
”I wasn’t worried about [the record],” noted Johnson, who also grabbed seven rebounds, handed out five assists and blocked a shot in just over 30 minutes of action.
”Most importantly I wanted to try to keep guys healthy and get some of the other guys a chance to play,” he added.
Johnson’s selflessness is proving contagious for a Nets team in the midst of shaking off an embarrassing start to what is supposed to be a landmark season in the team’s star-crossed history.
Pierce, a former NBA Finals MVP, has embraced his role as the leader of Brooklyn’s “Bench Mob”. The sage veteran scored 14 points to go with five rebounds against Philadelphia in his third straight appearance off the pine.
Deron Williams, who has missed 11 games this season due to ankle issues, scored 13 points and dished out 13 assists as the Nets remained two games behind first-place Boston in the suddenly very winnable Atlantic Division race.
Despite setting up countless Johnson jumpers during the third-period barrage, Williams was stunned by the final tally.
“He had 29 in a quarter? Oh my God!” the $98 million point guard exclaimed following his fourth straight start after a three-week absence from the starting lineup.
Johnson’s second-half assault began with 9:24 remaining in the third quarter, when he received a feed from Williams and drained the first of his eight shots from beyond the arc, giving Brooklyn a 67-48 cushion.
The jumper kicked off a personal 14-0 run, which ended when Kevin Garnett rudely interrupted by knocking down a shot to open the lead to 80-58 midway through the third.
Johnson, still in a zone, came right back with four more 3s, including a beautiful fade-away jumper as he was leaning back out of bounds that resulted in a rare four-point play.
Making Johnson’s performance even more impressive was the fact that he has been battling a cold the past few days.
“I’m taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” Johnson said of his ongoing bout with the sniffles. “I’m starting to feel a little better and this win definitely helps it.”
“Oh man it was amazing,” Nets forward Andray Blatche gushed over Johnson’s shooting display. “He came out there with high confidence. He’s a little sick, but he wasn’t going to let that hold him back. He came out and caught fire. I’ve been in that situation before. I know how it feels.”
Blatche, seeing extended playing time in the middle during Lopez’s absence, finished with 20 points, marking the third straight game in which he has reached that mark.
Mirza Teletovic, a virtual non-participant during Brooklyn’s ugly 5-15 start, had 11 points and five rebounds in his first-ever NBA start as Brooklyn started to show off some of the depth it boasted about before the season began.
If Kirilenko (back), Lopez and Terry (knee) find their way back into the lineup soon, the Nets could find themselves whole for the first time this season come Christmas.
If not, however, they at least know they can go to ‘Ol Reliable Joe Johnson when they need a big shot, or two … or eight.
“He’s been the one horse that’s been consistent for us, so we’ve asked him to play for 40 minutes when he’s had more than one injury,” Kidd said of his veteran shooting guard. “He’s a guy who never complains. He just goes out there and does his job.”
Nothing But Nets: The Nets led from wire-to-wire Monday night while amassing a season-high 35 assists. They also shot over 60 percent as a team for the first time since Feb. 5, 2009 against Washington. … Beatles legend Sir Paul McCartney was at the game Monday night. … With Teletovic starting, the Nets have now used 11 different opening lineups during the injury-plagued start to their campaign. … After hosting the Wizards on Wednesday, the Nets will visit Philadelphia on Friday and welcome Eastern Conference-leading Indiana on Monday before their Christmas Day matinee against the Bulls at Barclays Center.
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