Barclays Center hadn’t seen it in quite some time. Nobody outside of the team knew it even had a name.
“If you remember a couple years ago, when Joe was hittin’ game-winners left and right, he would do this little run-skip thing in the air?” Jarrett Jack asked. “You remember this?”
Jack was not talking about his 16-foot game-winning jumper, the one that sealed the first Nets victory at home since the calendar year ended in a 4, but about the celebration that followed: four hop-skips downcourt as the crowd, silent early on, roared in appreciation.
“I want y’all to write this down,” Jack decreed. “It’s called the 1-Thou Wow Shuffle.”
Consider it etched in Nets lore, as immutable as Monday night’s 102-100 final score, against the same Los Angeles Clippers team beat them 123-84 just ten days earlier. (How bad was it? Upon hearing a reporter say the Clippers beat the Nets “badly” that game, Jack had a much simpler explanation: “They beat the s— out of us.”)
The win improved the Nets to 6-1 in games decided by three or fewer points on the season, and 14-4 in the past two years in such games. They’re still 1.5 games behind the Charlotte Hornets for the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But with Deron Williams back and Brook Lopez rounding into scoring form off the bench, there’s perhaps a glimmer of hope that the team can compete heading into the last three months of the season.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Johnson added. “Especially in the fourth late. But we made plays, we got rebounds, and we were able to pull it out.”
The game-deciding play was a simple one — a flare screen sending Joe Johnson to the corner, then a pick-and-roll between Jack and Lopez. “I was deciding to go between Joe and Jarrett, and I decided they were probably going to trap Joe,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “So I figured they would just play a little more normal, and they did, except they switched.”
After the Lopez screen forced a defensive switch, putting Clippers center DeAndre Jordan in Jack’s way, Jack shook free with a left-to-right crossover and put down a mid-range jumper. “I just figured I could make a move, and I honestly waited too long to try to do anything else,” Jack said. “I just went into my bag a little bit, was able to get a clean look, and luckily I knocked it down.”
Jack had made just two of his ten shots heading into the final play. “It was crazy,” Jack added. “Coach drew up the play, he put me in the mix of it, I don’t know if he was aware (that) I wasn’t having my best shooting night tonight, but I guess he liked the matchup that we had.”
The shot capped a 12-2 run by the Nets to end the game, with each shot more improbable than the next.
With the Nets down 98-90, Deron Williams, playing his first game since January 7th after sitting out with a rib injury, pulled up for a three-pointer in transition. It’s a shot he’s only converted on 26.2 percent of his attempts this season. But Williams buried it, cutting the lead to 98-93.
“I’ve been running on the treadmill a lot, trying to stay in shape,” Williams, who played 29 minutes in his return, said. “Maybe it was just the adrenaline of this game, but I thought I felt really good. I didn’t feel winded at all.”
After two missed free throws by Blake Griffin, Nets wing Joe Johnson — he of the rock-solid crunch-time reputation and 81 percent free throw mark — matched Griffin by missing two freebies of his own.
But Brook Lopez tapped the rebound out to Johnson, who dribbled back behind the three-point line and fired a 26-footer. Bang. Three points.
Johnson said he’d “never” been a part of a sequence like that. “Never. Never. Not in my 14-year career. Me getting up there, missing two crucial free throws, and it bounces back to me and I get a three? That’s crazy.”
But it only set the scene for arguably the craziest shot of all: a corner three-pointer for Alan Anderson that drew Blake Griffin’s sixth foul, set up by Jack’s seventh and final assist. Anderson hit the free throw to complete the four-point play, the first one the Nets have converted all season.
“I had a real good look,” Anderson said. “I saw (Griffin) in the paint. When the ball was coming, he was still in the paint. I mean, he was closing out so hard, so once he touched me, I knew I had to drop and get the foul. When it left my hand, I knew it was going in.”
The same flare-and-screen action that set up Jack’s game-winner also got Anderson the corner three-pointer. Opposing defenses normally focus on Johnson, who’s taken the lion’s share of crunch-time shots for the Nets. But instead of forcing the ball to him, Hollins used that knowledge to his advantage. “I think coach tries to do what he can to use me as a decoy at times, which is great, and other guys make plays,” Johnson explained.
“We had previously just ran the play, and that’s when I was able to get in the lane and find Alan in the corner for the three-ball,” Jack said. “And we ran it again. They switched their coverage, they switched the big out, I was able to kind of get him rocking back on his heels, and he still contested it pretty good.”
A pull-up three-pointer by a recovering player who doesn’t make pull-up three-pointers, two missed free throws from a crunch-time assassin that still led to three points, the team’s first four-point play of the season, and a game-winning mid-range jumper to lead a struggling 18-28 Eastern Conference team over a 33-15 Western Conference powerhouse?
Maybe the “1-Thou-Wow Shuffle” refers to the 1000-to-1 odds that the Nets pulled this one out.[note]Or, the obvious answer: It refers to a cool $1,000. Whether or not someone pays it out is another matter. Joe Johnson, the originator himself, refused to comment.[/note]