Tyler Johnson and Chris Chiozza a Potent Pairing for Brooklyn Nets

First, Jacque Vaughn tried Chris Chiozza starting next to Caris LeVert. Then he tried Tyler Johnson.

But starting with Friday’s win over Sacramento, Vaughn let LeVert move into that lead guard role and paired Johnson and Chiozza on the second unit. Both groups have thrived, with the Nets putting up an offensive rating of 122.8 over the last two games combined.

“That was by design in order for us to see those two play together,” said Vaughn of Chiozza and Johnson. “The thought behind it was, we could have multiple ball-handlers, we could have both of those guys to push the pace. It just wasn’t Chiozza pushing the pace, so it really created some catch-and-shoot opportunities that we love, and then it allowed us to get downhill. So when teams begin to Red us and switch against us, then we’ll be in a position to have multiple ball-handlers to make plays.”

In those last two games, the Nets have been plus-17 in the 35 minutes Chiozza and Johnson have played together, shooting 52.2 percent overall with 25 assists against nine turnovers.

Against Sacramento, each had 14 points, with Chiozza adding six rebounds and four assists. Against the Clippers, Chiozza had eight points and five assists, while Johnson scored 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range.

“I think it’s a great combination; two guards that can pass and shoot pretty well,” said Chiozza. “He’s a smart player so it’s easy to play with him. He knows how to move when I’ve got the ball and I feel like we get each other a lot of open shots.”

The Clippers game was a true breakout for Johnson, who had been searching a bit while shooting 9-for-36 over the first four games after some solid scrimmage performances. He scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half after LA had erased Brooklyn’s 21-point first-half lead and tied the game at 74, with 13 in the fourth quarter alone.

With the Nets up 98-94 after the third quarter, Johnson opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers. The Nets led by as many as 12 points in the fourth, but the Clippers were back within six points with a minute to go when Johnson drew a foul on a drive down the lane. He made two free throws with 59.5 seconds remaining, then drained a deep 3-pointer with 25.3 seconds left that put Brooklyn up 127-116.

“I figured if I could get past those first couple games — more from a mental standpoint because, physically I felt good — but I think it says a lot about Caris and the guys who have the ball in their hands, Chiozza and those guys, that they continue to find me when I’m open and continue to encourage me to shoot my shots,” said Johnson. “Being this is my sixth year, I don’t feel like I get as frustrated during those lows, during those times when the ball is just not going in the basket. So, I continue to find my shot, continue to find where I can be aggressive and helpful for this team. Again, we’re only six games in. It’s not going to be perfect just yet, but they do a great job of helping you feel welcome here.”

Johnson is one of five new additions playing for the Nets on the NBA Campus. Waived by Phoenix back in February, he was signed as a free agent in June when the NBA opened back up for transactions in anticipation of the restart in Orlando. After traveling down to Florida separately from the team, Johnson had an extended quarantine before he was able to join the Nets for their sixth practice in Orlando on July 15 and he eventually sat out Brooklyn’s first scrimmage before making his debut with some clutch 3-pointers and 17 points against San Antonio in scrimmage No. 2.

“With Tyler, the big part of it was him continuing to get acclimated to the group,” said Vaughn. “He started a little bit late with us, and so, his communication with me has been spot-on since Day 1 of him just wanting to do what’s best for the team. Even when we moved him into the starting lineup and then moved him out of the starting lineup, that communication was consistent with him. It was all based around him finding a balance and what groove worked with him and what lineups work with him. It seems like we found that groove, and he’s really accepting the role that he’s in and playing well.”