Despite the D, Joe Johnson Isolates Victory
It’s a shooter’s mentality. A scorer’s confidence. An ability to keep everyone calm.
Despite missing eight consecutive shots in the second and third quarters, chipping in just four free throws during that span, Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth, including the go-ahead basket with 22.3 seconds remaining in Monday’s 88-85 victory against the New York Knicks.
“That’s Joe Johnson,” said Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo. “He’s a money player. He’s been a money player his whole career.”
The go-ahead shot was a 16-foot baseline jumper over J.R. Smith. The play began with Johnson inbounding at halfcourt with 40.9 seconds remaining. Johnson passed to Brook Lopez, who handed off while screening Johnson’s defender.
Johnson looked for Lopez on the roll, feinting overhead as point guard Deron Williams set a pick on Tyson Chandler, opting to hit Williams as he popped out on the left wing. The PG one-touched the ball to Lopez on the left block.
Lopez posted Chandler, patiently drawing a double-team from Jason Kidd, which left open a passing lane to Williams at the left side of the key, beyond the three-point line. With the Knicks now rotating to cover the perimeter, Williams swung the ball to Joe Johnson, deep on the right wing with only Smith to beat.
Johnson dribbled once, crossed over twice between his legs and sprang right with two power dribbles before pulling up. Fading back and to his right, Johnson hung in the air as Smith flew sideways in front of him, releasing the shot with an unobstructed view of its arc, and its swish.
“I didn’t know if they were going to double Brook or not,” Johnson said. “They did. And Brook swung it to Deron and Deron swung it to me. I wanted to make a play. I wasn’t passing it.
“That was big shot,” he continued. “I was holding my breath. I had to exhale.”
It was the latest shot of significance in a season during which Johnson has hit enough of them to have the Nets breathing easy. Twice already, he has hit double-overtime game-winners, sending first Detroit and then the Wizards home tired and beaten.
On the season, Johnson has shouldered the fourth-quarter scoring load for Brooklyn, posting 21.6% of the team’s total points (201 of 930) according to NBA.com/Stats; in the first, second and third quarters combined, Johnson accounts for 17.0% (504 of 2,971). And he somehow manages to become better as time ticks away in close games.
When the Nets are in clutch situations – ahead or behind by 5 points in the final five minutes – Johnson has matched his season performance, shooting .424 (14-33, though that includes 1-of-8 from three). Jump to the final three minutes, and his shooting percentage ticks up to .455 (10-22). And in the final minute, Johnson is 6-of-7 from the field, earning half the Nets’ makes in just ¼ of the team’s attempts. He’s additionally connected on 14-of-18 free throws, just under a third of the Nets’ totals.
“Joe’s a guy you can just throw the ball to and he’ll make something happen,” said backcourt mate Williams. “His game allows him to not need much space to get shots off. He likes to feel guys, he likes to create contact and get up shots. He just needs a little split-second to get a shot up.”
This the league knows, and this they cannot gameplan away.
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