7 To Watch In Game 7:
Hitting The Nail

Joe Johnson, DeMar DeRozan
Joe Johnson (AP)

The Nail.
The Nail.

It’s funny how both top scorers and the only two All-Stars in this series score from the same area in the exact opposite way. DeMar DeRozan leads the series in free throw attempts by a long shot — he’s hit 64 of 72 attempts in the six games, more than twice as many makes or attempts as any other player (teammate Kyle Lowry is 31-35). So he’s getting his points at the line.

Johnson has also gotten a lot of his points at the line, but he’s actually getting them in the course of action. John Schuhmann of NBA.com ran a great post earlier this week detailing how the Nets have gotten the ball to Johnson in the middle of the floor at the “nail” (AKA the free throw line), where it’s harder to bring a double-team. It also shows DeRozan getting looks from there, but not as many.

Johnson’s known nationally as a quiet scorer with a bloated contract, an unfair determination. His contract doesn’t play the games. On the court, he’s been Brooklyn’s offensive rock all season, and he’s dangerous from all over the floor as a scorer. DeMar DeRozan can’t contain him in the post, ditto for John Salmons, and he’s done a decent job of navigating the double-teams the Raptors throw at him when he’s posting up. He leads the Nets in scoring by a wide margin in this playoff series, and they only had a shot at the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA playoff history because the Raptors didn’t know how to guard him or keep him out of the paint.

DeRozan has been under an incredible amount of pressure this series, both from his teammates to create shots and from the Nets with tough man defense, and he’s delivered. More than 75% of his shots are contested attempts, and he’s hitting them at a better rate than he’s hitting his rapidly diminishing open looks, per SportVU. It’s very hard to keep that kind of ratio up, and the odds would say that something’s got to give: he’s either got to start missing some of those shots or draw enough fouls that it won’t matter. But in one game, it’s hard to play any odds at all.