Joe Johnson has endured a roller coaster season in Brooklyn. From game-winners to ugly shooting nights, Johnson has seen the highs and lows during his first year with the Nets.
But after the Nets’ 76-72 loss against the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday night at the Barclays Center, Johnson’s value to the franchise has never been higher.
He nailed not one but two shots at the buzzer in a 113-111 overtime win last Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks. He sent the game into overtime with a three-pointer and ended it from just inside the three-point line.
Johnson missed his second straight game due to heel soreness against the Grizzlies, and the Nets’ offense sputtered without him. They managed to hold their own against the defensively indifferent Houston Rockets in a 106-96 loss Friday night, but the Grizzlies presented a different challenge.
The Nets managed just 51 points through three quarters, settling for a meager 13 in the often troublesome third quarter.
P.J. Carlesimo ran the same offense, the Nets just missed Johnson’s ability to make something out of nothing.
Johnson is often criticized for his role as “iso-Joe,” but if the Grizzlies game is the sample size, he might be justified. The Nets needed an heroic effort from Deron Williams to make the game competitive.
Even with Williams’ 24 points (9-of-15 shooting), the Nets struggled to crack 70. The offense just doesn’t run the same without Johnson.
Johnson’s season stats may appear modest by his previous standards, but 17 ppg, 3.6 apg, and 3.1 rpg are respectable numbers for an offense which lacks creativity.
When delving deeper into his numbers, his true value appears.
In the final 30 seconds of a game in which the Nets are trailing by five points or less, Johnson is the league’s best. He’s gone 8-of-9 (88.9 percent) from the field, including a make on his lone three-point attempt. Johnson has also converted on both of his free-throws.
The Nets don’t need a timeout to draw up the plays either.
“Everybody in the arena knew Joe was getting the ball,” Gerald Wallace said. “We could’ve put him out there by himself. Well, with someone to take the ball out.”
By comparison, Williams has finished on just two of his nine attempts in the same situation. He’s also added two turnovers.
Williams may be the floor general, but Johnson’s the closer. The offense performs accordingly in his absence.
Johnson’s isolation moves may appear detrimental when they occur during the second quarter of any ol’ game, but when the game is on the line, every one begs for Johnson’s one-on-one repertoire.
“He just makes plays,” Wallace added. “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.”
And when Johnson’s not out there to make plays, the results show. Against the Grizzlies, the Nets managed just 37.7 percent shooting. When the ball sticks and fails to move, Johnson’s isolation is a dire necessity.
“We definitely miss Joe,” Williams said. “We count on him so much, especially in closing minutes like we had (against Memphis). We definitely missed him out there, it just a tough game.”
The Nets will continue to monitor Johnson’s status, and according to the guard, he is improving. Improving but cautious because of the potential impact down the road.
“I’m going to be very cautious, because this is not something that I want to linger during the postseason,” Johnson said Tuesday.