It wasn’t a guarantee that Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson was getting the ball out of the timeout, but it was damn near close.
“(There were) a couple options out of it, but I knew I was probably going to be open,” Johnson said of the look, a wide-open three that could have tied the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers at 94 apiece with eleven seconds left in regulation.
The play, drawn up not by assistant coach & offensive coordinator John Welch, but by head coach Jason Kidd, was a simple one: get point guard Deron Williams the ball at the top of the key, set two down-screens for Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson, and let Williams find the open man.
At the last moment before the inbounds, the Nets substituted 7-footer Brook Lopez with 6’1″ Jason Terry, meaning that Terry would be the screener for Johnson. You’d think with the dimunitive Terry setting one screen and *ahem* legendary screener Kevin Garnett setting another, you’d expect the guy coming off of Garnett’s hip to be the primary option, and Terry would be a decoy screen in a play that could potentially end with him getting an open shot.
And while Pierce was open coming off of Garnett’s screen, Terry set a mammoth pick on defensive stalwart Lance Stephenson, and Johnson was open for the shot before Pierce even had a chance to call for the ball.
“JET set a great pick, I came off, got a great look,” Johnson glowed of the play set off by Terry, who left the locker room without speaking to reporters after the 96-91 loss.
“JET set a great screen for him,” Kidd agreed. “He got a great look.”
Despite the great look, and despite Johnson’s track record last season — 9-10 on shots with under 30 seconds left and the game within one possession in the regular season, 2-3 in the playoffs — the shot went just long, and Pacers forward David West secured the rebound and the victory. “It was a great look,” Johnson added, forever even-keeled. “It felt good, just didn’t go down.”
The play was a stark contrast to the team’s crunch-time options last season, which usually amounted to “give Joe Johnson the ball and get the hell out of the way.” Kidd drew up a play designed to get a quick, wide-open shot, rather than allow Johnson to go one-on-one against a tough defender in Stephenson. Though the shot didn’t fall, it was the right one, and a welcome change from last season’s late-game offense.
“It was a play to get someone a 3,” Kidd said flatly about the call. Not to get Johnson a 3, but “someone,” as long as that someone was open.
This is the basketball mind the Nets have needed on their sidelines; someone who doesn’t look to get his man his, but to get his team theirs. Johnson echoed that sentiment in the locker room, noting that “everyone’s checking their ego at the door” and that it’s not about getting any one player going, it’s about getting the team going.
The Nets have seen Johnson hit those shots time and time again, and despite starting off this season with a clank, those who have been next to him time and time again in celebration haven’t lost an iota of faith in him to be that shooter.
“We had a good look, he just missed it,” Williams said after the game. “He’s going to hit the next one.”