Joe Cool does it again! Nets down Thunder 95-93

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

He did it again!!

Since joining the Nets at the beginning of last season, Joe Johnson has faced life-or-death moments at the end of games 14 times, each situation fraught with high drama ... and 12 times, including Thursday night, he delivered to the delight of Nets fans.

As Jason Kidd said after the game, who else was he going to give the ball to? He asked Johnson if he wanted to take the last shot and the quiet assassin from Arkansas said he did. After fulfilling his promise, Johnson was mobbed by his teammates, part out of joy, part out of relief.  After all, the Nets had come back from another huge deficit.

With 6:21 left in the 3rd quarter, the best scorer on the planet - Kevin Durant - went to the bench with his 4th foul and the Nets down by only seven.

Six minutes later, the Thunder lead was 16.  Another opportunity lost.  The easy-to-play-against Nets, once again, were completely unable to answer the bell.

Yet, when Durant re-entered the game in the 4th, the Nets had actually cut the lead back to the original seven.

And then after a Reggie Evans rebound and long outlet for an AK47 dunk, a definite pulse was noticeable.  The bench stirred.  Towels were waived.  Players were engaged.  Could this be hope?

What followed was an improbable series of events.  Kevin Garnett drained a vintage top-of the-key jumper.  Paul Pierce hit a three on a beautiful three-chance possession and followed that up with a patented step back right fadeaway J.  The Nets kept getting stops.  And then they took the lead from the 23-6 Thunder on a transition three (courtesy of a drop pass by a streaking Shaun Livingston) by leading scorer Deron Williams.

After Garnett narrowly missed a short jumper to put the game away, Serge Ibaka collected a Durant pass that Garnett deflected and layed it home to tie the game.

So with 5.8 seconds remaining Kidd had a decision to make - draw up a play for the struggling but super-clutch Johnson (4-11, 9 points), or go with a red hot Williams or an in-rhythm Pierce?

Kidd went with the former. Johnson inbounded to Williams and got it right back.  He got his man Ibaka off balance, smoothly rose just inside the three point line and put up a rainbow that scraped the right rim and splashed in for the win.

"I didn't think he was struggling," said Kidd. "He was getting the ball.  You understand the personnel and Joe delivered."

Williams had his best game in a while.  He outscored Durant 29-24 and found his outside shot - draining six threes.  Livingston was just 1-7 for 5 points, but he might have been as much a key to the victory as anyone, using his long arms and mobility to help slow down the virtually unstoppable Durant (who had just four 4th quarter points).  Pierce added 17, doing most of his damage early to get things going and late as part of the rally.

The Nets needed the win to stay 5 games behind the streaking Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division and now somehow stand only 2.5 games behind the Chicago Bulls for the East's final playoff spot.

The Road Trip From Hell is now officially over.  We'll see if Joe Johnson's exclamation point at the end of it was a jumping-off point for a big turnaround or just a lonely highlight in a disappointing season.

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