Nets History Spotlight: Joe Johnson at the Buzzer
Late 3 forces OT vs. Bucks, jumper wins it at the horn
Joe Johnson’s string of buzzer-beaters — eight in 10 seasons, twice as many as any other NBA player during that span — didn’t begin in Brooklyn, but there’s no doubt Johnson elevated his clutch legend with the Nets.
He even left one last dagger on his way out the door, a one-legged, 3-point heave off the glass to beat Denver 105-104 on February 8, 2016, just a few weeks before his final game as a Net.
But it was back in February 2013, in Johnson’s first season as a Net, that he doubled up on the Milwaukee Bucks. His 3-pointer tied the game with 1.3 seconds left to force overtime, then he finished off the Bucks in overtime with a pull-up 17-footer in a 113-111 Nets win, his fourth game-winning shot of the season.
YES Network will broadcast that Joe Johnson Nets Classic Wednesday night at 8 p.m. It will be preceded by YES We’re Here featuring Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn and broadcasting legend — and former Nets analyst — Bill Raftery, airing at both 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Johnson came to the Nets prior to the inaugural season in Brooklyn after playing in six straight All-Star Games while with the Atlanta Hawks. His first Nets game-winner came six weeks into the season, a step-back onto the 3-point line for a jumper that broke a tie game and gave Brooklyn a 107-105 double-overtime win over the Pistons at Barclays Center.
Two months later, the Bucks came to Brooklyn for the first game after the All-Star break. The Nets were on a roll, with a 15-7 record since New Year’s Day that began with a seven-game winning streak. In the final game before the break, Johnson had put up 26 points and nine assists in a win over Denver.
The Nets jumped out to a 61-51 halftime lead as Johnson knocked down two early 3-pointers and four of his first six shots. But in the third, Milwaukee guard Brandon Jennings put up 16 points as the Bucks outscored the Nets 30-19 and took a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Brooklyn trailed by as many as five early in the fourth quarter, and there were four lead changes and two ties midway through the period. With 20.4 seconds to go, the Nets took a 102-101 lead on a pair of Andray Blatche free throws. Larry Sanders put the Bucks back on top by tipping in a rebound, and two Jennings free throws with 6.7 seconds remaining had Milwaukee up 105-102.
Johnson inbounded to Deron Williams, then curled through the lane and back up to the top of the 3-point arc for a catch-and-shoot, turnaround 3-pointer that tied the game with 1.3 seconds to go.
In the overtime, the Nets were down 111-108 before Keith Bogans tied the game on a 3-pointer with just over a minute to go. The game was still tied when the Nets inbounded the ball with 5.2 seconds to go. From the top of the key, Johnson crossed over to his left and pulled up just beyond the foul line for the game-winning jumper.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Johnson told reporters after the game. “Regardless of the situation, whether it’s the regular season or the playoffs, it’s always a great feeling, just to see everybody kind of explode and the excitement in the building, is probably the best feeling.”
Johnson finished with 24 points, five assists and five rebounds, shooting 10-of-18 overall and 3-of-5 from 3-point range in 44 minutes.
Williams had 19 points and nine assists, and Brook Lopez, coming off his first All-Star Game appearance, had 19 points and nine rebounds. As a team, the Nets shot 10-of-19 (52.6 percent) from 3-point range.
Johnson built on his clutch legend with two more buzzer-beaters the following season; a transition layup to beat the Suns 100-98 in overtime in Phoenix on November 15, 2013, and then an off-the-dribble 3-pointer to lift the Nets over Oklahoma City 95-93 on January 2, 2014 in a game where the Nets came back from 16 down, including 11 points at the start of the fourth quarter.
His Brooklyn coda came two years later, with his game-winner against Denver accounting for his fifth buzzer-beater in four seasons with the Nets.
“When I get the basketball, it’s instincts, it’s reactions,” said Johnson after the 2013 Milwaukee game. "It’s nothing that is planned. I totally read the man who’s guarding me, how he’s playing me, that’s basically it.”
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