By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Just call him "Joey Big Shot" or "Big Shot Joe".
Either moniker would be appropriate when describing Joe Johnson, Brooklyn's unquestioned go-to guy in the clutch, following his latest late-game shooting clinic.
The six-time All-Star, who was denied a trip to last weekend's cavalcade of NBA superstars in Houston, twice bailed out the Nets on Tuesday night before 17,334 fans at Downtown's Barclays Center, lifting Brooklyn to a stirring 113-111 overtime triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Trailing by three with time winding down at the end of regulation, the Nets appeared headed for a 14th consecutive defeat to Milwaukee, which hadn't lost to the Brooklyn/New Jersey franchise since March 3, 2009. But Johnson calmly drained a 3-pointer from the top of the circle with just 1.3 seconds remaining to forge a 105-105 deadlock.
Keith Bogans hit the last of his three big 3-pointers in the final minute of overtime to make it 111-111 before Johnson took center stage again to close out the extra session, nailing the game-winner at the buzzer to lift the Nets to their 10th consecutive overtime victory -- the longest such streak in the NBA.
"It's an unbelievable feeling, regardless of the situation, whether it's regular season or playoffs, it's always a great feeling," noted Johnson, who is a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor this season in the final 10 seconds of overtime or regulation. "To see everyone excited in the building is probably the best feeling."
Having already buried Washington, Detroit and East River rival New York with game-winning shots earlier this season, Johnson wanted the ball for the final attempt against Milwaukee. His teammates were certainly on board with the decision to leave the outcome in Johnson's hands.
"He just makes plays," forward Gerald Wallace said of Johnson. "I think the biggest thing that people don’t understand about Joe is you can’t rattle him, you can’t get him out of his game, he’s going to get the shot that he wants to get."
The statistics certainly back Wallace's claim. With Tuesday night's heroics, Johnson improved to a staggering 8-of-9 from the field this season in the final 30 seconds of regulation or overtime when the Nets are down no more than three points.
The 11-year veteran from Little Rock, Ark., finished with a team-high 24 points, five rebounds and five assists in 44 spectacular minutes as Brooklyn (32-22) moved within two games of the Knicks for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and stayed a half-game in front of Chicago in the hunt for the Eastern Conference's fourth seed.
Brook Lopez, returning from his 10-minute run in Sunday's All-Star Game as the Nets' lone representative, scored 19 points and pulled down nine rebounds despite sitting out long stretches of the fourth quarter as "Bench Mob" leader Andray Blatch thrived in the middle of the Brooklyn offense with 14 points and six boards in just over 18 minutes of playing time.
After sitting out two games prior to the break with inflammation in both ankles, $100 million point guard Deron Williams bounced back nicely with 19 points and nine assists despite six turnovers, one of which nearly cost the Nets down the stretch in regulation.
C.J. Watson added 11 points off the pine for Brooklyn, which was headed to Milwaukee following the contest to finish of a back-to-back, home-and-home with the Bucks Wednesday evening.
Who knows? With Johnson on board, the Nets might just begin a modest streak of their own against the pesky Bucks, especially if he gets the ball in his hands when it matters most.
"My confidence is through the roof," Johnson revealed. "My teammates, the coaching staff, they believe in me so much down the stretch that I would never want to let those guys down."
Thus far this season, "Joey Big Shot" hasn't.
Hoop du Jour: The Nets are 5-0 in overtime this season as their dominance in games that go beyond regulation stretches back to last season. ... There was a moment of silence prior to Tuesday's game in honor of long-time Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, who passed away Monday. ... Brooklyn reserves outscored Bucks backups 44-15 during Tuesday's contest. ... C Lopez took his fourth quarter benching in stride, citing Blatche's effectiveness in the final period against the Bucks. He also admitted that he might have mentally "checked out" during overtime as a result of his long rest. ... Williams indicated that he felt fine after logging more than 44 minutes Tuesday, but would have a better feel for how his ankles respond following the flight to Milwaukee in advance of Wednesday's game. ... The Nets will return to Barclays Center this weekend, facing Jeremy Lin and the Rockets on Friday before hosting Memphis on Sunday. ... Brooklyn improved to 20-10 at home this season, 24-11 against East opponents and 9-3 vs. division foes. ... With Wednesday's trade deadline looming, general manager Billy King indicated that there was a "10 percent chance" the Nets would make a move this week.