Nets thank god for 'Joe Jesus'

NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets have a nickname for their last-second lord and savior, Joe Johnson.

They call him “Joe Jesus.”

“He might not be there when you call on him,” Kevin Garnett explained. “But he’s there when you need him.”

Johnson, who has hit two game-winning buzzer-beaters for the Nets this season, had been shooting just 30 percent and averaging a mere 7.0 points in his previous five games.

But on Monday night, he erupted for a game-high 23 points -- nine of them in the fourth quarter -- leading Brooklyn to a 91-86 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at Barclays Center.

“Shooting is an art, man. And I’ve been doing a lot of aiming, really trying to make it instead of just shooting it,” said Johnson, who finished 10-for-22 from the field. “In that fourth quarter, that’s what Jason Terry kept telling me: ‘Just shoot the ball.’”

And that’s exactly what Johnson did.

With the Nets down 78-77, Johnson ignited a go-ahead 7-0 run with a 3-pointer and capped it with a 14-foot fadeaway. He later knocked down a 10-footer and hit a pair of free throws to clinch the win.

“[Coach] Jason [Kidd] told me I was gonna have to pick it up,” Johnson said. “He told me in the fourth quarter when I came back in that he wanted me to be assertive and make plays and take over the game, and that’s what I was trying to do.”

Johnson’s performance came at a crucial time, considering the Nets were without Deron Williams (left ankle).

“Well, we leaned on him a little bit tonight,” Kidd said. “With Deron out, we went to him a lot more and he responded. He had a lot of great looks. He understands time and score. He hit some big shots down the stretch for us.”