Joe Johnson knew his shot would come.
It was only a matter of time.
After averaging just 13.6 points on 36.2 percent shooting through the first five games of the season, the Brooklyn Nets’ $89 million man exploded for a season-high 25 points -- including 16 in the fourth quarter -- on 9-for-16 shooting from the field in Tuesday night’s 114-101 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Barclays Center.
The Nets (4-2), who have won three in a row, improved to two games over .500 for the first time since Oct. 29, 2010.
“Just confidence,” Johnson responded when asked what made him believe he was going to snap out of his shooting funk. “Being a shooter in this league, you can’t worry about your last shot, you gotta worry about your next one -- and that’s what I tried to do in the fourth quarter.”
Nets coach Avery Johnson was never concerned about his six-time All-Star’s sluggish start.
“Joe is not a guy I am worried about,” Johnson said. “Guys like Joe know how to play. Like I said after last game, I just want him to be efficient.”
“Anchor Joe” helped the team’s second unit outscore the Cavaliers 35-12 in the second quarter by netting nine points. Then, with their 24-point lead nearing single digits in the final period, Johnson elevated his game to another level.
At one point, he scored 12 straight points for the Nets on three 3-pointers and three free throws to keep Cleveland at bay.
Unlike their debacle against the Minnesota Timberwolves last Monday, the Nets weren’t about to blow this one.
“That’s just kind of the way the ball bounces, I guess,” Johnson said. “In that fourth quarter, I just kind of wanted to be more aggressive. Deron [Williams] did a great job penetrating the defense and finding guys for open 3s.”
Prior to Johnson’s flurry of triples, the Nets had gone 0-for-13 from beyond the arc.
“Nah. I didn’t know,” Johnson said when told of that stat. “But it don’t matter, man. It’s a 48-minute ballgame. Anything is possible. So, the fact that we couldn’t make any 3s up until the fourth quarter, [it] means a lot that we focused in and really took our time on our shots in the fourth quarter.”
Brooklyn’s trio of Johnson, D-Will (26 points, 10 assists) and Lopez (22 points, 7 rebounds) combined for 74 points.
“I thought the offense was a lot better today as a whole,” Williams said. “It seems like we are forming better chemistry out there.”
And it couldn’t have come at a better time with the Boston Celtics looming on Thursday night.
“It felt great,” Johnson said. “I understand why I was brought here, so to fill that void tonight and get the crowd into it in the fourth quarter [was huge]. ... I told the guys coming into the third quarter we’ve been in this position before and we’ve blown it. Tonight they cut it to 10 going into the fourth, but we were able to sustain [the lead].”
As a result, the Nets were showered with “BROOK-LYN!” chants from the crowd.
“I think it’s the coolest thing,” Johnson said. “I love it.”