Joe Johnson hit, not one, but two (basically) buzzer-beaters tonight to help the Nets finally beat the Bucks after 13 straight losses, one a three-pointer to tie up the game at the end of regulation and one a 15-footer to win it at the end of overtime
Deron Williams returned to the Nets lineup tonight, an occurrence that would normally be the biggest story of a game. However, his teammate Joe Johnson stole the show against the Bucks with two more massively clutch jumpers that sent the game to overtime and eventually won it in that extra period. Joe was the offensive focus for Brooklyn in the second half as Brook Lopez was surprisingly benched in the fourth quarter, leaving the offensive burden to Johnson, D-Will, C.J. Watson, and Andray Blatche. That group stepped it up when it had to, and after a bit of a funk early in the overtime, pushed through to overtake Milwaukee for the Nets' first win against them in 14 tries.
The beginning (first third quarters) of tonight's game aligned with the normal flow of Nets games in that the first quarter was good (31-24 in favor of Brooklyn) with tons of made shots, high intensity, and good defense. Of course, that was to be followed by a decent second quarter but one not as productive as the first. The bench, paced by Blatche, C.J., Hump, and even Keith Bogans, anchored the second quarter and--after a bit of a swoon late in the period--gave the Nets a double-digit 10-point lead at half (61-51) that felt comfortable enough for some confidence.
Then, all hell broke loose in the third, as it normally does.
Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, as I warned they could in my preview of tonight's matchup, got off-the-rails hot right after halftime, hitting basically every fadeaway, step-back jumper they took. Simply put, after Ellis' and Jennings' massive scoring outburst against the incapable-of-defending Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, the third ended in a one-point lead for the visiting Bucks, a stunning 11-point turnaround in the quarter that had Brooklyn looking straight at a 14th-straight loss to the deer.
The fourth quarter was pretty even throughout, especially after the trio of Watson, Hump, and Blatche hit three straight shots to neutralize a MIlwaukee five-point lead back to a more manageable one, a deficit which much of the quarter would be played with. However, the Bucks held the driver's seat towards the end of the game but whenever they threatened to extend their lead, a C.J. jumper or Andray lay-in would bring the game back in-hand. Then, with 10 seconds left and Milwaukee up 103-102 after a backbreaking Larry Sanders' tip-in.
Trying to set up the offense, D-WIll sized up Monta Ellis after collected a loose ball from the in-bounds pass. Making very slight elbow contact with Ellis' face while swinging his arms to get some room, Deron was called for an offensive foul as Ellis dropped to the ground like he was shot. A clear flop, the play was barely noticed by the refs who gave the Nets the brutal turnover after a period of two seconds, wayyyyy too long of a time to take to make a call in the NBA. The late call allowed MIlwaukee to hit two more free throws to bring its lead up to 105-102.Then, as he has done a bunch of times this year (notably vs the Pistons and Wizards), Joe Johnson took the in-bounds pass well beyond the three-point line and promptly drained a 35-footer to tie the game up with a little more than a second left, sending it into overtime and the Barclays Center fans and the Nets players into pure pandemonium.
The extra period played out very much like the end of the fourth as the Bucks took a three-point lead (111-108) after a period-opening Keith Bogans trey ball. Then on a broken play with around a minute left, the ball ended up in Keith's hands again and he drained another triple, knotting the game up at 111 with 60 ticks left. Back-and-fort great defensive (and ineffective offensive) possessions left the ball with the Nets with just five seconds left, after a great defensive board by Gerald Wallace and foul-to-give by the Bucks. Where would the Nets go to finish off this win? Answer: Where they did in regulation: Joe Johnson. Joe got the ball, dribbled up on Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, made a few moves, and hit another huge shot as the clock ticked down. This one was a 15-footer compared to the three in the fourth, but this one had special importance. It officially ended the Nets' historic skid vs Milwaukee. And oh how exciting it was.
Some other observations I had from the game: No Brook Lopez at all in the fourth quarter (no injury or foul trouble) but he returned in the overtime, and was ineffective and missed all four of hit shots. Interesting move by P.J. Carlesimo to stick with Andray Blatche--who had a great fourth--instead of put his All-Star center in. It ended up working, but begs to question how much confidence P.J. has in Brook.......Deron, coming back from his pre-All-Star-break ankle inflammation, moved around the court great and looked to be close to 100 percent. He hit a few threes en route to 19 points and nine assists, with an unfortunate six turnovers. Not perfect, but promising.....Obviously, game ball goes to Joe. Scored 24 on 10-18 shooting (and had five boards and five assists) and truly looked like his Hawks-self, as in the player that could be counted on every time the Nets need a bucket, like he was with Atlanta. Just an inspiring performance.......The bench was great tonight, like it has been during the other wins this three-game win streak (vs Pacers and Nuggets). C.J. scored 11 on 5-9 shooting, Dray-14 points on 6-8 shooting with six rebounds, Keith- nine points on 3-5 three-point shooting, and Hump- eight points, seven boards.
Both teams fly up to Wisconsin tonight as they rematch tomorrow night at the BMO Bradley Center in MIlwaukee as the second half of a home-and-home between the Nets and Bucks.