When Eric Gagne used to come in to close games for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the height of his career, the words “Game Over” would flash on the scoreboard.
Joe Clutch hit his third game winner of the season on Tuesday night -- and second at the buzzer -- lifting the Nets to a dramatic 113-111 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at Barclays Center.
Johnson is 8-for-9 in the final 30 seconds of games this season when the score is within three points, including 4-for-4 in the final 10 seconds. He also beat the Detroit Pistons at the buzzer on Dec. 14 and the Washington Wizards with 0.7 seconds remaining on Jan. 4.
“Joe’s like ... I hate to do the comparison to Michael Jordan ... but ... it was just like when everybody knew Michael was getting the ball in Chicago for the last shot,” Nets small forward Gerald Wallace said after Johnson’s 15-foot pull-up over Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute out of an isolation set fell through the net and sent the crowd of 17,334 into a frenzy.
“Everybody in the arena knew Joe was getting the ball. We could’ve put him out there by himself ... though we’d need somebody to take the ball out. He just makes plays.”
Johnson, who finished with a team-high 24 points along with 5 assists and 5 rebounds, sent the game into the extra session when he drilled a turnaround 3-pointer with just 1.3 seconds left in regulation.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, man,” Johnson said. “Just to see everybody just explode and see all the excitement in the building, it’s probably the best feeling.”
Prior to Johnson’s bucket, the Nets (32-22) had lost to the Bucks 13 straight times. But they improved to 5-0 in overtime this season and 14-20 against teams with .500-or-better records because their 31-year-old shooting guard did what he does best: close.
Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo drew up the final play in the huddle.
“It’s called, ‘Get the ball to Joe and get out of his way,’” Carlesimo said.
Then Johnson went out and did the rest -- again.
“You get used to it,” Nets point guard Deron Williams said. “It’s almost like you know it’s going to go in.”
Johnson may be averaging just 17.1 points on 42.7 percent shooting, but the $89.3 million man has certainly risen to the occasion time and time again with the game hanging in the balance.
When Joe Clutch gets the ball in crunch time, just like when Gagne notched an MLB-record 84 consecutive saves from 2002 to 2004, it’s “Game Over.”
“[P.J.] just drew the play up and told me to go get a bucket,” Johnson said. “My teammates were telling me, ‘Come on, Joe! Let’s go!’ Just hearing their words of encouragement and how desperate they were to have me come through in that situation, it means a lot.”