Nets’ Johnson continues to punish Raptors

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Nets vs. Raptors: Game 3

NEW YORK — It seems that you can’t consider Joe Johnson without considering his contract. He’s overpaid, yes.

But when you look through that lens, you can lose sight of how valuable Johnson is on the floor and how much of a problem he’s been for the Toronto Raptors in their first round series with the Brooklyn Nets.

We’re three games in and Toronto has yet to find an answer for Johnson, who led Brooklyn to a 102-98 victory in Game 3 and a 2-1 series lead on Friday with 29 points on 17 shots. He scored 21 in the second half as the Nets took control of the game and then held on down the stretch.

“I was just being patient,” Johnson said. “Throughout the first half, I saw them coming at me with the double-team, so I was just trying to make the right play for my teammates, and we were rolling early. In the second half, it opened up and I got a couple of easy looks.”

Johnson’s numbers sure make it look like it’s been coming easy. Through three games, he’s averaged 23.7 points on 26-for-43 (60 percent) shooting.

Since January, the Nets have found success playing small. But their small is big, starting with Johnson’s 6-foot-7, 240-pound frame that, combined with the skills of a lead guard, is near impossible to stop one-on-one.

Johnson is neither quick nor explosive. He rarely reaches third gear. And when he gets the ball, you know what’s coming. But whether he’s gotten it on the perimeter or in the post, he’s been punishing the Raptors inside. Seventeen of his 26 field goals have come in the paint.

“He’s a big body,” DeMar DeRozan said after having to work harder for his 30 points on Friday. “It’s tough once he gets you down there and gets his hip on you. He’s a very crafty little baller. His floater … you really can’t do much to it.”

Post-ups have been the go-to play call for the Nets, but even in isolation, Johnson hasn’t settled. And he’s consistently been able to use a crossover or two to get his defender on his hip and get to his floater, which has been money all series. He has shot 13-for-20 in the area of the paint outside the charge circle in the series.

Toronto simply doesn’t have anybody who can guard Johnson. Their starting wings – DeRozan and Terrence Ross – are too skinny. Raptors coach Dwane Casey has called on reserve Landry Fields in this series solely to guard Johnson, and the first time Fields defended Johnson in the post on Friday, the Raptors still sent a double-team.

After Game 3, both Casey and DeRozan said that they have to be quicker with those double-teams.

“We’ve got to do a better job of making sure we’re getting help their quicker,” Casey said. “When we do get it there, we’re in pretty good shape in those situations.”

But no matter the defense, the Nets have been rather efficient in this series, improved offensively each game. And double teams on Johnson could help some of his teammates get better looks at the basket.

“We just have to continue to play through our bread and butter and know that Joe gets his great shots,” Shaun Livingston said. “It makes the game easier for us too. It conserves energy for everybody, so we can be fresh and kind of get our game going from all angles.”

Deron Williams, who had 22 points in Game 3, has been benefiting from the attention on Johnson, but has also turned up his own aggressiveness in the postseason, taking his matchup with Kyle Lowry personally. Much of Brooklyn’s offense has been actions involving both Williams and Johnson, and they’ve played off each other well.

“We had to learn to play with each other,” Williams said of his on-court relationship with Johnson. “We’ve had to learn to share the ball and also learn where each other’s going to be. I think we understand that right now. When Joe’s playing in the post, I know where the double-team’s coming from and where I need to be. And he knows where to find me.”

The Raptors lean heavily on Lowry and DeRozan. The Nets are more balanced, but if Williams and Johnson can match the production of Toronto’s backcourt, they’re in good shape.

If Toronto can’t find an answer for Johnson, they’re not.


  1. Sid says:

    This series is so close in terms of competition, It really blows that at the end of games the refs decide to punish the raps as blantantly as possible to ensure the nets win. who knows if the series would be 2-1 Brooklyn if the refs didn’t take over, it very well could be still the same result but at least Brooklyn would have earned it, Ive never been so disappointed as an nba fan watching this go down. giving a guy a tech in a one possession game because he was anger over a really bad call. anyway once Brooklyn plays Miami and doesn’t have the refs on their side they will be destroyed

  2. kobeballhog says:

    never seen an nba game so blatantly in favor of one team (the nets) such a disgrace no more credibility

  3. PatPat says:

    Raptors fans correct me if I’m wrong but, wasn’t Patrick Patterson put on the line with a chance to tie the game, on a Blatche foul call that could have gone either way if the refs were biased, but he missed both free throws. Also did the refs help Paul Pierce sink his clutch shots in game 1. This ain’t the WWE, don’t call it out like that if you’re team made a run, had a chance to win but fell short. The foul whistle has been the same for both sides, that’s why Garnett fouled out and Livingston had his foul trouble as well. Nets are old, with a rookie coach and their salary is very high but everyone is being overpaid, don’t let that fool you. So what we have here is experience vs youth. It’s been a great series so far, games have been close and clutch plays have won the games, not the refs.

  4. JM says:

    Joe being Joe-Cool and not sloppy Joe…. Ross and Derozan can’t defend this guy… he is too big and strong..

  5. Daniel Jacques says:

    If Noam Chomsky were a basketball fan what would he have to say about the manufacturing of consent in the NBA and its press? Its like watching WWE wrestling in its manipulated ending accept the poor Rap players have to try and play through it and not complain about it or face the leagues wrath. Mostly what I say gets deleted on BBall sites or the article disappears for a new one even though I haven’t infringed upon anyone’s rights. There isn’t total cohesion between the league and the sports media but the media does ultimately rely upon the league continuing to be popular and will only create so much controversy as it creates more interest and not total descent of the fans.

  6. Deadmon says:

    League REF’s continue to punish the Raptors and esspecially Valanchiunas… considering it’s the worst matchup for Brooklyn it would make sense.. The 2002 playoffs Lakers/Blazers was later found out to be 100% rigged by the refs.. what makes you think it can’t happen 12yrs later? People are ridiculous.

  7. corrupt nba refs gtfo. nba turning into wwe says:

    nba wants a nets vs heat matchup.
    4-0 heat win.
    just because nets won in the reg season dosent mean anything.

  8. 2306 says:

    The fact that millions of ppl see this game, wheter or not raptors or nets fans see that the officiating is biased and clearly favours the nets… its sad for the nba, for basketball in general… its like the lakers winning championships all over again just flat out bs. the most expensive team in nba history, and this is how they’re gonna get to the second round, with the help of the refs… pathetic Brooklyn Seniors

  9. Daniel Jacques says:

    My headline “Raptors have no answer for biased refs”

    • I KNEW IT! says:

      After Toronto’s dominance on the boards in Games 1 and 2, I told my friends that the referees were gonna put Valanciunas and/or Amir Johnson in foul trouble. I told them this BEFORE Game 3.

      Game 3 comes, and Valanciunas gets put in foul trouble. Exactly as I predicted.

      You can beat the referees. It’s hard, but possible. I just don’t like the fact that Adam Silver was in attendance for BOTH Nets wins. Why is that happening? It doesn’t look good, especially when a former referee says that the league is trying to screw the Raptors.

  10. Refs FTW says:

    the raps don’t have an answer for the refs

  11. mike james says:

    raptors got lucky.. the last call on blatche that send him to the line at the end for a chance for raptors to tied..he tripped over his own team mate. and brooklyn got called for it.. is not the refs.. brooklyn is too balanced compare to raptors

  12. Chase says:

    The officiating has been pretty terrible throughout the playoffs thus far but even more obviously so in this series. It’s getting harder for NBA fans to defend this leagues credibility, let alone the fans whose teams have been affected by these terrible calls. That Valanciunas call was god-awful. Come on NBA… clean up this act, if only for the self-respect of your product alone.

  13. Danny says:

    The headline should be, “Refs continue to punish the Raptors for being a non-American team”. I am very disappointed with the one sided officiating in this game and this series. I understand that a Nets/Heat match up in the second round would be ideal for TV ratings but it doesn’t mean the NBA should make it happen. Let the best team win with fair officiating.

  14. Some random guy says:

    You have to win to get respect from the refs, but ironically you can’t win because you don’t have respect from the refs.

  15. TheKush says:

    What I see when I watch the Nets is an inconsistent over rated point guard named Deron Williams whose getting praise for Paul Pierces leadership. Deron Williams is not a clutch point guard he’s inconsistent he got two good coaches fired and even with the legendary Jason Kidd right there coaching him Deron still seems to have his head somewhere else. I think the nets can only go as far as Deron Williams takes them and if the nets beat the raptors I see him getting shut down by Miami’s defense unless Jason Kidds finds a nice warm spot on the bench for him. DeMar DeRozan is a beast is even better than I initially thought he was the problem the raptors have is Brooklyn has a bunch of people to throw at DeMar DeRozan so those other guys have to make shots and FREE THROWS! If the rest of them made shots the Raptors could win this series easy. But I still got the Nets winning it in 6 games

  16. Party In The Square says:

    Toronto seriously needs to let Joe Cool get his, play that Dallas Casey zone and deny the “others” — only way to stop Brooklyn…

  17. kobeballhog says:

    When will the raptors get a break? At the start of this series it is quite obvious one team is being favored. Hope they clean up the calls and just let the players decide the outcome. Nba credibility will take a big dip if this goes on. Comeon nba you are better than this. Clean up your refs.

  18. William says:

    The officials were Brooklyn’s best players.

    • William says:

      What’s the matter nba? Adding censorship so that no one can observe the bias of your officials? So much for freedom of speech.

      • JJ says:

        There are bad calls in every single NBA game, going against both teams. Even in the last few minutes of this game, the Raptors got a loose ball foul on KG off a free throw where he didn’t do anything. And let’s not forget Blatche being called for a foul off another free throw on the other end when he didn’t do anything either. I’ll admit they missed that one offensive foul when the foot was in the restricted area, but that is a call that is missed at least once in any game… DeRozan got to the line several times and the free throw attempts for essentially tied at the end of the game. Dwill couldn’t buy a whistle any time he drove in and there was contact. Besides Lowry and Valanciunas in the first half, no one on the Raptors were even in foul trouble. BKN had KG, Dwill, Plumlee and Livingston all in foul trouble. They got quite a few calls going their way. Stop whining about calls every time that the Raptors lose.

  19. brooklyn says:

    oh yeah! i told you the nets will own your beloved raptors! now that toronto loses, i know that it’s time for their fans to whine again and try to make reasons for their loss! cut it down, men. whining will not bring back that game, haha! n.n

    • D says:

      You have clearly never watched, played, or had a single intelligent thought about this game in your existence. If you need the refs cheating for you to win and that makes you feel good, cool. But we all know your team and their play will have nothing to do with them beating the Raptors. The NBA simply doesn’t want to advance a Canadian team when they can have a bunch of over the hill losers getting smacked by the Heat because they will get better ratings. Absolutely disgraceful.

      • HeatFansDontExist says:

        You’re aware that the Heat get more calls in their favor than any other team right? That’s how the NBA is. I don’t really think it has anything with the Raptors being in Canada though. If the Raptors were in the US I think they would have won at least one championship by now because the big stars who left probably would’ve stayed. Carter, T-Mac, Bosh, and I’m sure there’s others.

    • blackandsilver says:

      wow you still a hater even when your team loses?

  20. I am Da Law says:

    Most of the playoff top seeded teams were constructed with Miami in sight as their enemy; but forgot to look in their respective conference and see which other team can stop them before reaching the FINALS. That’s why we’re seeing a lot of underdogs winning over top seeded team.

  21. 416 since Mighty Mouse says:

    Yes, I might be bias but some of the calls against T.O was ridiculous. Still, even with the refs helping the nets we still have a chance to tie the game. I am happy with our team effort in the 4th quarter. Let’s go Raps!


  22. lolnba says:

    Raptors defense at times were really bad, but NBA referees are worse whole game, i havent seen so much errros in any nba game. If NBA has best players, why it has worst referees. Or it is this way, cause Brooklyn are bigest paid team and Raptors are least popular…

  23. Deadmon says:

    I am a Laker fan.. saw some ridiculous fouls on Toronto tonight.. most notably Vananchiunas picking up his 3rd foul when Garnett shoved him into Pierce who then locked up his arms.. the foul went on Toronto. Changed the entire tempo with Vananchiuns going out.. the “felon” whistler blowing ref is legit.. the NBA is chasing the all mighty dollar.. don’t think they value money over credibility? Look at Adam Silver’s plan to project lazer logos on player uniforms at the free throw line.. nothing like Burger King logos in your highlight reels on ESPN….

    • Daniel Jacques says:

      Thanks for saying that. I am Raptor fan so coming from me it just seems like I’m a poor loser. I thought the same thing. Toronto’s biggest advantage is that Lopez is hurt and JV is playing really good. When he came back in the game it was their chance to get momentum and that bad call cost them the rest of the half. I didn’t watch the second half because I am tired of the Nets pushing and hacking. That’s why Toronto has so many turnovers. The funny thing is that when they play the Heat in the next round (because Raps can’t beat them with the bias) it is the Nets and their fans who will be frustrated with the biased reffing. Again, thanks for saying that. The bad calls were tolerable when the Raptors stunk because nothing was on the line but this is horrible. Why bother investing emotionally as a fan.

  24. jdub455 says:

    Jj is cold as ice.. I think, he’s the best midrange clutch player in the league right now cause he breaks you down 1 on 1 unlike KD/lebron/melo who pulls up for the long jumper on cruchtime… jj, is different cause he takes his time… dribble dribble fake drive jumper/drive in midrange splash… dangerous player for the heat… good thing they have LBJ and battier who are good 1on1 defenders… that’s why no team should not play the nets and let it reach that point… jj is nasty when taking the last shot…

    • Akeem says:

      Yes, it IS ALL about the money. This is a capitalist country. Money has ALWAYS ruled. Freedom of speech does not apply to the NBA participants. Can’t have any public outcry that might upset the cash flow. Players and couches get big bucks to shut the @#$* up and keep the people entertained.

      …but Joe is a bad boy! Let’s get over the big contract people, his employer can easily afford it. Good for him.