As soon as the ball left Joe Johnson's hand with time expiring on the game clock in double overtime, all 15,797 fans inside Barclays Center knew the game was over: even Johnson himself knew the shot was good, and began trotting with an undeniable swagger back towards the half-way line. For Johnson, who after 21-games with his new team, is finally finding his footing, and groove – seeing the ball swish through the net was a relief.
"Man, my teammates, my coaching staff, all had confidence in me that whole fourth quarter," said Johnson post-game. "When I got the ball I just wanted to get a little room, when it left my hand I knew it was going in. That's why I faded back."
The shot was undoubtedly the biggest of Johnson's brief time as a Net, propelling his team to a win in a game which saw them blow a 17-point lead, only to come back and thwart a spirited Detroit team; as the game wore on, both Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans fouled out, leaving the six-time All-Star Johnson to step up. He finally emerged as Brooklyn's 'closer', a role that head coach Avery Johnson has been preaching that J.J. would fill.
"Absolutely," coach Johnson reiterated after the win. "Joe's been in a pretty good rhythm – he really came on for us in the second half of the Toronto game – and it wasn't no secret that we were going to give him the ball [tonight] and ride his back."
Johnson scored 5 of the Nets 7-points in the second overtime, finishing with 28 (on 12/22 shooting), taking over the main offensive duties from Deron Williams (17-points, 7/17 F/G's) and Gerald Wallace (25 points, 9/15 F/G's).
Integrating so many new pieces into an, essentially, brand new team is always going to take time. Coach Johnson has maintained all season that his group would need at least the first quarter of the season to forge it's identity, and for Joe Johnson to establish chemistry with his new teammates.
"What did I tell you, the middle of December? So, it's the middle of December, 'it's time now Joe', explained coach Johnson. "And he came through for us."
After some early season inconsistency, Johnson has now had four of his best games in Brooklyn's past five outings, averaging 19.8 ppg over that span (up from his 16.3ppg season numbers), while making 40 of his 81 shots from the field as well. He says it's a combination of being more familiar with his team, and coach Johnson giving him the freedom to create his shots off the dribble.
"I think he [coach Johnson] picks his spots," Johnson said. "When to put me in isolation, or whether I'm playing throughout the offense, so he's been doing a good job at that. As the season goes on I think we'll start to move more fluidly [offensively], and I think you'll see everybody be in sync."
Point guard Deron Williams had a far simpler explanation for Johnson's game-winner though.
“I don’t think anybody wanted to play a third overtime,” Williams said, adding about Johnson, “I guess he knew we needed to get to Chicago.”
Image via : John Minchillo/Associated Press