‘Joe Jesus’ can’t always save Nets
Johnson’s Missed Buzzer-Beater Leads to OT Loss vs. Mavs
Joe Johnson spent his first two seasons in Brooklyn playing the role of savior for the Nets, hitting an unfathomable 12-of-14 clutch shots in late-game situations.
This season, the man Kevin Garnett refers to as “Joe Jesus” has gone to the well three times in similar spots, only to come up bone dry.
Johnson missed a potential game-winning jumper from the top of the key at the regulation buzzer Monday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center as Brooklyn dropped a 96-88 decision to visiting Dallas in overtime before a sellout crowd of 17,732.
The seven-time All-Star, and the Nets’ lone representative at the NBA’s annual mid-February fete a season ago, certainly can’t be blamed for having his opportunity for another dramatic win bound harmlessly off the rim as the Mavericks survived Brooklyn’s late-game push.
In fact, Johnson has appeared to be the only Net willing to step up in moments of crisis during his two-plus seasons here, especially when the game is on the line and the clock is winding down.
“We battled, Joe made two big 3s and we made another bucket,” Nets first-year coach Lionel Hollins said of Johnson’s late-game contribution. “I think Joe’s [logging] 40-something minutes two nights in a row kept him from making the last shot.
“Without him, we’re not in that position,” Hollins added. “You make some and you miss some. But the thing about Joe is he’s not afraid to take them. Because when you miss, people say things like he’s not making clutch shots.”
Johnson finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Brooklyn, which failed to score more than 17 points in any of the final three quarters of regulation.
“[Joe is] one of the best in those situations,” said Mason Plumlee, who managed just seven points and seven rebounds in one of his least productive performances since taking over as the team’s starting center. “Everyone knows we are going to him. We like that situation.”
Everyone knows the Nets are going to Joe Johnson, but they go to him anyway.
That doesn’t speak very well to the rest of the Nets’ resolve in game-winning situations.
“We fought back in the fourth [quarter], but in overtime, you have to make plays and we didn’t make enough of them,” lamented Plumlee.
The Nets, who ran out to a 35-21 first-quarter lead but needed a regulation-closing 11-2 run fueled by Johnson just to force the extra session, lost for the second straight night as both Garnett (rest day) and Deron Williams (sore left side) sat out the second half of back-to-back games.
Brook Lopez, starting in place of Garnett, had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Jarrett Jack, who has taken Williams’ starting spot at point guard, added 20 points and 10 assists for the Nets, who fell to 16-18 on the season.
Dallas, which had lost its previous three meetings with Brooklyn, improved to 11-0 on the road against Eastern Conference foes this season, thanks mostly to the second-chance points created by center Tyson Chandler (13 rebounds) and the deft ball-handling of Rajon Rondo (14 assists).
“We played good defense, we played good defense (Sunday) night [in the loss to Miami],” Hollins said. “They got 10 more shots through their offensive rebounding and they made seven more 3s. That’s the difference.”
Brooklyn went a dismal 3-of-25 from 3-point range, shot 39 percent overall for the game and lost the battle on the offensive glass, 14-7.
“We have to figure it out,” said Plumlee. “At this point in the season, you can’t have whole quarters where you can’t score the basketball.”
You also can’t expect Joe Johnson to bail the Nets out every time the game is on the line.
At least not so far this season.
Nothing But Net: Dallas F Dirk Nowitzki hit what proved to be the dagger 3-pointer against the Nets Monday night, giving the Mavs an eight-point lead with 34 seconds remaining in overtime. With the shot, Nowitzki moved past Hall of Fame center Moses Malone into seventh place on the league’s all-time scoring list with 27,412 points. … Lopez mysteriously stopped shooting and rebounding Monday after putting up 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the opening half. ”I didn’t want to really try to force anything,” said the 7-footer from Stanford. “ I did a couple of times, but like I said, Jack got going, Joe got going. We’ve got lots of guys that can contribute on this team and definitely don’t want to get in the way of that.” When asked if he saw the Mavericks doing anything different in their defense against Lopez following his big first half, Hollins simply said, “No.” … The Nets will host Boston on Wednesday night and Philadelphia on Friday.
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