Joe Johnson comes through in clutch again for Nets
Escape midtown with a win.
"People were heckling me walking in and out of the tunnel," the Nets power forward said. "I asked them on the way out, 'Why are you so quiet now?' So it's a good feeling. It got quiet in the Garden.
"I love playing here. Everyone is so passionate. Obviously, they love their Knicks, and to come in and get a win is great."
That they did, in part because of more late-game heroics by Joe Johnson. With the Knicks leading by one, he nailed a tough 16-foot pull-up jumper with 22.3 seconds left, handing the Nets the lead for good in their 88-85 win in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. The Nets (25-16) earned a split of the four-game season series and moved within a game of the Atlantic Division-leading Knicks (25-14).
Johnson had 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, igniting things offensively for the Nets down the stretch. After misfiring on eight straight shots spanning the second quarter to the beginning of the fourth, he made half of his eight fourth-quarter attempts, regaining the form that was on display in his 11-point first-quarter outburst.
"That's Joe Johnson," said interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, who improved to 11-2 since taking over for Avery Johnson. "Joe Johnson is a heck of a player. He's a money player. He's been a money player his entire career . . . We all feel very comfortable when Joe has the ball in the fourth quarter."
With the Nets trailing 84-83 after Carmelo Anthony swished two free throws with 40.9 seconds left, the Nets called a timeout to set up a play to get the ball to Brook Lopez inside. But the ball found its way to Johnson along the right side as the clock ticked down.
No way he was about to give it up to anybody. He was bombing away no matter what.
"In those moments down the stretch," Johnson said, "I love having the ball in my hands to where I can make a play."
Johnson took a couple of dribbles toward the basket, found the spot he wanted, rose up and elevated over the outstretched hands of the 6-6 J.R. Smith, making the most of a broken play. His shot hit the bottom of the net for an 85-84 lead.
"The play was designed to go to Brook," Johnson said. "They doubled and he kicked it out to me, and I just was trying to read how [Smith] was playing me. I was able to get right and get to a pull-up jumper."
The Nets' Deron Williams made three of four free throws in the final 8.3 seconds, and Smith's desperation three-point heave clanked off the glass and bounced off the rim.
As good as Johnson was, though, who knows where the Nets would have been without Humphries' play off the bench. Humphries turned in one of his best games of the season, contributing 11 points and 13 rebounds -- five on the offensive end -- in 27 minutes, which was more action than starters Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans logged.
"Hump was big, man," Johnson said. "The way he came into the game really changed it, being physical and a great low-post presence. We couldn't ask for much more than that."
Just as the Nets couldn't ask for anything more from Johnson -- again.
"Joe, he's something special," Humphries said, "especially down the stretch. He was unbelievable for us tonight. We are pretty confident when he gets the ball in those situations, but we'd like to avoid those situations and have some bigger wins."