Joe Johnson Brings Clutch Shooting to Brooklyn
This look at Joe Johnson's 2012-13 season is the fourth feature in a series reviewing the Brooklyn Nets' inaugural year playing at Barclays Center. For more, read about GM: Billy King, PG: Deron Williams and C: Brook Lopez.
The Barclays Center was due for iconic moments during this inaugural season, and shooting guard Joe Johnson racked up two of the most prominent: a double-overtime, buzzer-beating game-winner against the Pistons on December 14th and a staggering, dual buzzer-beater performance to not only send the February 19th game against Milwaukee into overtime, but also win it.
Johnson even took the clutch-shooting show on the road, nailing a double-overtime game-winner in Washington, a go-ahead basket against the Knicks at Madision Square Garden and a pair of final-minute overtime buckets to send Game Four of the Nets' playoff series against the Bulls in a second bonus period.
"He just makes plays," says teammate Gerald Wallace. "I think the biggest thing that people don't understand about Joe is you can't rattle him, you can't get him out of his game. He's going to get the shot that he wants to get."
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When the Nets needed him most, Johnson was able to get his shots efficiently , somehow improving as time grew shorter and defenses more focused on his attempts. According to NBA.com/Stats, Johnson shot .514 (19-37 FGs) in the final five minutes of close games, ones in which the Nets were tied or trailing by as many as five points. He shot .565 (13-25) in the final three minutes of those games, and .769 (10-13) in the final minute.
Overall, Johnson averaged 16.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 36.7 minutes per game while shooting .423 from the field, including .375 from three-point range. Acquired in an offseason trade with the Hawks that sent five players to Atlanta, Johnson admittedly needed time to adjust playing with Deron Williams, the most talented point guard he'd started alongside since parting from Phoenix's Steve Nash as a free agent in 2005.
"I think the chemistry for us learning one another this first year was pretty good," Johnson says. "I think next year us having have that cohesiveness and getting through the trenches, going through the ups and downs together this first year will definitley help us going into this second year. Everybody kind of knows what to expect and everybody kind of knows their role."
The 12-year veteran described his role as just having to play off instincts, working off Williams' penetrations and postups or Brook Lopez's varied offensive repetoire, doing "whatever (he) could to help those guys out". Johnson notably found a good flow playing alongside four reserves, with those five-man lineups producing at levels similar to that of the starters, albeit in limited minutes.
Perhaps Johnson's value was best indicated by On / Off Court statistics, which reveal that the Nets scored 8.2 fewer points per 100 possessions with Johnson on the bench, a differential that eclipsed that of Williams (-6.1) and Lopez (-5.6) to lead the team. Often the bailout man when plays broke down, Johnson struggled down the stretch due to a recurrence of plantar fasciitis, which limited him through the seven-game series with Chicago: he scored just 14.9 points while shooting .256 from three and .417 overall, including a 2-for-14 showing in the deciding Game Seven.
General Manager Billy King said that despite Johnson being one to avoid excuses, if the Nets had advanced, the injury and would've kept the guard out of the ensuing two games. Both are confident that rest will heal Johnson's foot, and he'll be ready for next season without needing surgery. Johnson has proven he plays a crucial role for Brooklyn, and King knows he must continue to build on this season's success.
"We have a core," King says. "Now, I've got to complement that core a little better. I think our guys did a great job, different guys stepped up different times. But seeing some of the key pieces work together, I know areas where we've got to add to make it better."
View the Joe Johnson Season Highlights photo gallery.
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