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Joe Johnson: One Of Basketball’s Timeless Classics

© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Iso Joe has turned back the clock in hopes of reviving the Jazz’s postseason glory.

The play of Joe Johnson has never been flashy or otherworldly like many other playoff heroes of the past decade. He lacks breakaway speed. He doesn’t possess a tremendous vertical. Instead, he likes to square off in one-on-one matchups, like a heavyweight boxing match. Johnson would prefer to stare down his defender, then free up space by taking a dribble before executing a stepback jumper. The simplicity of his game is what makes “Iso Joe” such an exciting player to root for this postseason.

His 16-year NBA career has largely been defined by stunning scoring performances, lucrative contracts, and lack of postseason hardware. The swingman has seen time on six different teams throughout his career but has never seemed to find the right situation for considerable team success.

Johnson, 35, is now past his prime, but with the way he’s currently playing, you wouldn’t be able to tell. The Jazz player is taking over games during the first round matchup against the Clippers. Just 11 seconds into the series, teammate Rudy Gobert was sidelined after hyperextending his left knee and suffering a bone bruise. The injury should have left the Jazz in a difficult position to compete going forward, but it didn’t take Johnson long to give a rebuttal. 

Just as he revealed in the closing moments of Game 1, Johnson’s clutch shooting throughout the playoffs has stacked up to some of the league’s most elite players:Image titleJohnson’s 18 points through five close games is tied for fourth-best among those competing in the playoffs. Meanwhile, his 80% field goal percentage in such moments is the highest in the league for those who have at least 10 attempts. The most impressive thing about his clutch scoring barrage is that Paul, Harden, Leonard, and Westbrook have all made free throws during crunch time, which easily affects their scoring. By comparison, Johnson hasn’t even attempted a single free throw during late-game situations in the playoffs.

After dropping Games 2 and 3, the Jazz were in dire need of a victory at home in Game 4. So once again, with the team in need, the savvy veteran answered the call:


Don’t let his nickname fool you. “Iso Joe” has shown he can add to the scoreboard in a variety of ways. With time winding down, the Clippers led by seven on the road until Johnson decided to display his entire scoring repertoire. He began cutting into the lead by taking the pass from the short corner and dropping in a floater over Raymond Felton. 

Next possession, he recognized that Luc Mbah a Moute attempted to fight under the screen, giving him a split-second to fire a long range jumper that quickly dropped through the bottom of the net. Over the following two minutes, Johnson continued to dominate Mbah a Moute, who has consistently been one of the league’s best perimeter defenders this year. With ease, he has been able to outlast the efforts of the younger, versatile defenders of Los Angeles. The Jazz forward’s late-game takeovers have been a thing of beauty.

Without Johnson’s heroics, the Jazz would likely not be succeeding the way that they are. Not only is he playing well in the closing moments of games, but his postseason scoring numbers also show that he’s saved his best performances for when it matters most:

Regular Season: 

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Postseason: 

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Head coach Quin Snyder has increased Johnson’s role compared to the regular season. It’s important to note that viewing just one series means that there is a small sample size. However, with the extra time on the floor, the former Razorback is taking advantage of the opportunities. He has nearly doubled his scoring average with just over eight extra minutes per game. His effectiveness has improved dramatically also. His field goal percentage has jumped from a solid 43.6% in the regular season to a very impressive 51.2% in the six games against the Clippers this series. 

The NBA in 2017 is driven by the new generation of players who are either athletic freaks posterizing defenders at will or hybrid players who can play all five positions and can still shoot lights out. With the dynamic of the league changing each year, Johnson’s recent success has definitely been something to cheer for. After 16 years in the association, he has always had steady production, despite not always being in the limelight during the last few seasons. Now that the veteran has been called upon once again this postseason, he’s showing that he’s not going down gently.

Johnson will have the opportunity to take his curtain call when Utah faces Los Angeles in a decisive Game 7 on Sunday.

Edited by Jazmyn Brown, Bobby Murray.

SQuiz
Which team was Joe Johnson drafted by?
Created 4/30/17
  1. Boston Celtics
  2. Atlanta Hawks
  3. Brooklyn Nets
  4. Phoenix Suns
What is Joe Johnson's career high for points in a single game?
Created 4/30/17
  1. 53
  2. 59
  3. 45
  4. 42

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