NEW YORK, N.Y. — It looked like it’d be all Joe Johnson once again. With a 16-point Nets lead whittled down to just three points with under two minutes remaining, it looked like “Joe Cool” would try to lead the Nets to victory once again with his late-game shotmaking.
But it wasn’t shotmaking this time: it was playmaking.
Johnson curled around a pick-and-pop on the right side of the floor with Brook Lopez, and the Knicks, who have seen Johnson hit game-clinching shots before, keyed on him & Lopez, with Iman Shumpert disregarding Deron Williams.
Williams buried the three-pointer to put the Nets up six, all but clinching the 98-93 win (despite one last potentially game-tying desperation heave from Carmelo Anthony), improving the Nets’ record to 7-9 on the season.
“It was a read,” Johnson said of the play. “If I had Brook on the pick-and-roll, hit him, or if I go all the way, I had my options, and I seen Deron in the corner, so I made the play.”
Johnson’s more known for his crunch-time shooting than passing. Since he joined the Nets three seasons ago, he’s taken exactly 100 shots with less than three minutes left and fewer than five points separating the teams, only dishing out 13 assists in the same timeframe, per NBA.com.
But Johnson saw a collapsing defense and a sneaking Williams, and fired the pass over Shumpert’s head to Williams in the corner.
Williams said that the play wasn’t supposed to end with him in the corner, but he read Shumpert’s wandering eyes and feet, and made his way down to the open area. “It was supposed to be a pick-and-roll into a swing (pass) and another pick-and-roll with me, but the way it happened was they went and tagged… on Brook when he rolled,” he explained after the game. “Joe made a great pass to me in the corner.”
Though the read was perfect, the pass wasn’t — it sailed a little high, and Williams had to leap a bit to corral the ball. But it also led him more comfortably into the corner pocket, and he still had an open look as Shumpert scrambled back to try to guard him.
“I think all of our timing’s getting better,” Brook Lopez added. “We’re getting more used to playing with each other, and we’re more relaxed and comfortable out there.”
The Knicks aren’t a good basketball team — at 4-15, they’re among the worst teams in the NBA. But a win’s a win, and the Nets will take an open corner three-pointer with two minutes left against one of the league’s worst defensive teams any day.