It didn’t end the game right then and there, so Jarrett Jack didn’t break out the dance.
“If it’s not a game-winner, you can’t–” Jack paused, then turned up the volume on his voice, to make sure Joe Johnson could hear. “If it’s not a game-winner, you can’t break out the 1-Thou-Wow Shuffle!”
Across the locker room, Johnson laughed, only able to because the play had worked out at all.
With the Nets up by just one point and a potential collapse looming after giving up a 17-point lead, the Nets took a time-out and drew up that game-deciding play. “Coach (Hollins) drew up a beautifully executed play,” Jack said. “That’s exactly the way it was drawn up.”
The play call brought Joe Johnson off a Jarrett Jack screen, with Johnson driving towards the middle of the floor. Calderon — who was defending Jack — leapt off to guard Johnson, a move Hollins presumed was a defensive switch. “I didn’t think (Calderon) would sniff it out,” Hollins said. “He was smart.”
But Lance Thomas, guarding Johnson, never left Johnson’s hip. “I don’t think Calderon wanted to double, but Joe was going to be wide open coming into the middle, and so they both went with it,” Hollins analyzed.
After Johnson drew the tight double-team, he found Jack wide open for the three-pointer with 13.8 seconds left, putting the Nets up 90-86. Two possessions later, and the Nets had capped their third straight victory and their first three-game winning streak of the season with a 92-88 victory over their cross-borough rival New York Knicks, improving to 21-28 on the year, tying them with the Miami Heat for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
You can see the play development below: Johnson rocks from the right side of the floor to the left as the rest of the Nets clear out to the right side. Then after Jack sets the screen, Calderon’s caught in Joe-man’s land — and Jack was left on an island. “Honestly I didn’t think that both of them would just leave Jack the way they did, and I just tried to get the ball to him, and he made a tough shot,” Johnson said.
“Jarrett was wide open and he made a three,” Hollins added. “Thank God.”
Johnson has been Brooklyn’s crunch-time rock, hitting a ridiculous 8 of 9 shots with the game within one possession and under 30 seconds left in his first year in Brooklyn, and drawing all of the attention with the game on the line and the ball in his hands.
But Johnson, who’s known for his shotmaking in crunch time above all else, made the right basketball play to find his open teammate, even if it was an unexpected shot.
“You don’t want to give a game up to a guy that’s wide open, regardless of what the guy’s percentage is from the three-point line,” Knicks forward and the game’s lone All-Star Carmelo Anthony said after the game, calling the defensive misstep a “miscommunication, if there was any communication at all.”
Jack has struggled from three-point range this season, converting on only 19 of 89 attempts (21.3%) heading into Friday night. “I’m a firm believer in hard work overrides everything,” Jack said of the shot. “I’m a person that I’m always putting in the extra shots up in the gym, so even if I am hitting a rough patch, or whatever the case may be, I know that I put in the time.
“I know there are going to be times where it don’t fall, but it’s going to be times where I make up for them. I feel like I’m gonna make more than I’m gonna miss. It’s just me relying on my form, my mechanics, the muscle memory I’ve put in, all the late hours I’ve put in the gym, and they’ll fall for me sooner or later.”