Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson, who delivered in the clutch so many times this season, shot just 2-for-14 from the field and missed all five of his attempts in the fourth quarter of his team’s season-ending 99-93 loss to the Chicago Bulls in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Barclays Center.
Said Deron Williams of struggling teammate Joe Johnson: "Even if it was 50-60 percent, we needed him out there."
“You can put it on my back if you want,” said Johnson, who finished with six points. “I just missed shots I normally make, and we came up short.”
Johnson, 31, who still has three years and $70 million remaining on his contract, played 38 minutes despite being hampered by plantar fasciitis in his left foot. He also appeared to jam his hand on a drive to the rim in the second quarter.
“I don’t make excuses,” Johnson said. “If I was out there on the court then I was able to go. I don’t blame my foot for any of this. Like I said, it was just a terrible game.”
Johnson came into Saturday night’s action averaging 16.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists in the first six games of the series. Prior to Game 6, the veteran admitted he was essentially playing on one leg and probably wouldn’t be playing if it were the regular season.
“I am sure it was,” interim coach P.J. Carlesimo responded when asked if Johnson’s injury was the reason for his struggles. “Not taking anything away, but it was the injury and Chicago’s defense. He has been playing injured and obviously his shot wasn’t going down, but he has been so clutch for us in the fourth quarter all year and we wouldn’t be here in Game 7 if it wasn’t for him.
“To play injured the way he did, getting treatment before every game and having to go out there and try to compete on both ends is very difficult.”
Point guard Deron Williams, who dealt with ankle inflammation and a right wrist injury up until the All-Star break, understood what Johnson was going through.
“The last couple months have been like the first two or three months for me,” Williams said. “You could see the frustration in his eyes. He just can’t do the things he’s used to doing. So it’s tough. But he battled for us. He was out there, and we needed him out there, even if it was 50-60 percent, we needed him out there.”
Johnson had a chance to get the Nets within 95-93 with 38.9 seconds left, but his corner 3-point attempt clanged off the back rim. Johnson went just 1-for-9 from beyond the arc.
“I was just trying to give the guys what I had,” Johnson said. “Obviously, I didn’t make a lot of shots, but I was just trying to be there to help out in any form or fashion.”
Coming into the playoffs, Johnson said the team’s goal was to win a championship. So, given this first-round playoff exit, does Johnson consider the season a failure?
“We made some steps in the right direction,” Johnson said. “Like I said, obviously this definitely wasn’t the plan. We came up short of our goal, but we’ll get to work man throughout the summer, come back next year and take another stab at it.”