An excerpt from the Nets-Cavaliers game recap:
Over the past 13 games heading into Friday night, Joe Johnson had scored fewer than 10 points six times, and only shot 50 percent or better three times. But against the Cavaliers, he looked more like the Joe Johnson of old, and he felt it, too.
“I felt pretty good, just trying to be aggressive on both ends,” Johnson said in response to a question about the tendinitis he has dealt with this season.
One of my favorite insights about Johnson, and you may have read it before in this space, came last year from former Nets guard Shaun Livingston. He surmised that when Johnson dominated a game, it creeps up on you, because he does a lot of little, unmemorable things that add up over time.
You can see Stephen Curry getting hot from three-point range from 23.9 miles away. The arena buzzes after a LeBron James dunk or chasedown block. All eyes are on Kyrie Irving when he puts someone on the floor with a crossover, and the ensuing step-back jumper is indelibly written into your memories.
But Johnson at his best takes games over in subtle, varying ways: he’ll hit a three-pointer, curl around a screen into the paint for a short floater, post-up Iman Shumpert for a layup one time and a fallaway jumper in another, spot up for one three-pointer in the first quarter and then toss in a 30-footer off the dribble in the fourth.
There’s no connective tissue here, but before you know it, he’s got 20 efficient points.
When Deron Williams throws eight of his 14 assists to Brook Lopez, you make note of the connection the two players have. But when Joe Johnson throws nine assists to eight different players like he did Friday night, it’s like a quarterback hitting all of his receivers.
At his best, Johnson’s signature move is that he doesn’t have one. That’s what happened tonight, and that’s why Joe Johnson earned the rare A+ game. Johnson finished the night with 20 points on 7-14 shooting (3-7 from three-point range), tying a Nets career-high with nine assists and adding five rebounds.