Joe Johnson collected the ball at the top of the key, and with time for just one dribble, proved to his team and its fans and the owner sitting high atop in his luxury box that the Nets are perfectly capable of making their own luck.
“Man, we needed that one big,” he said after the Nets defeated the Nuggets, 105-104 in the most exciting basketball game the Barclays Center had seen in a long time. Kenneth “[Kenneth] Faried made a tough shot [to give the Nuggets the lead] and I was thinking, man, that’s just our luck. He made a tough shot but we got some luck back. It was great.”
With time expiring and the Nets down by 2, Johnson collected a pass from Markel Brown and rattled off a one-legged, three-pointer that hit the backboard and banked in as the bench roared and sent Mikhail Prokhorov into a jubilant tizzy. The play had been intended as a pass to Brook Lopez inside, but Johnson, open with time expiring, was forced to improvise.
The Nuggets previously had taken the lead after Faried had hit a baseline runner off an inbounds pass with 20 seconds to go. The Nuggets trailed throughout but went on an 8-2 run midway through the fourth quarter and took a one-point lead — their first since the first quarter — on Danilo Gallinari’s free throws.
“Joe Cool, as usual,” Prokhorov said, after the game.
He can say that again.
In as energetic and entertaining a game as the Nets have played all year, Johnson — who surpassed Scottie Pippen at No. 52 on NBA career scoring list — contributed a devastating crossover with two seconds left in the third quarter. The 34-year-old’s ankle-rattler sent Jusuf Nurkic — 13 years his junior — flailing across the floor and his step back jumper was good for an 81-78 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Thaddeus Young led the Nets with 20 points and Johnson finished with 12 points and eight assists.
Gallinari led the Nuggets with 24 and Kenneth Faried had 22 points and 13 rebounds.
The Nets outscored the Nuggets 26-22 in the first quarter and opened up a 16-point lead with 5:26 left in the first half. They shot 50 percent in the first half, led by Markel Brown, who scored 14 of his 19.
Chris McCollough made his NBA debut when he subbed in for Young about two minutes into the second quarter and, after a decent ovation, got to work. He had a block on Mike Miller’s layup attempt with 9:42 to go and hit his first bucket — a 20-footer from the left flank — about a minute later. He added two rebounds and played almost 11 minutes.
The best moment of the game for McCollough?
“When my man Joe hit the last shot,” he said. “We were on the bench betting it . . . The ending was good.”
Notes & quotes: As expected, Nuggets assistant general manager Arturas Karnisovas made the trip to Brooklyn, though Prokhorov would not confirm Monday that Karnisovas, believed to be on the shortlist for the Nets’ GM position, interviewed for the gig. “It’s not bad,” Prokhorov said of the search, shortly after walking by Karnisovas but not stopping to speak. Karnisovas was courtside during warm-ups speaking to Nets’ assistant GM Frank Zanin. It’s believed the former Seton Hall player interviewed for the job before the game. The Nets probably are looking to fill the spot before the February 18 trade deadline.