EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Brooklyn Nets like to take advantage of Joe Johnson’s size in the post.
They did so early and often in their 94-87 Game 1 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday afternoon. And they plan on continuing to do so throughout the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
Johnson finished with a team-high tying 24 points and eight rebounds in a game-high 45 minutes. He shot 8-for-13 from the field -- including 5-for-6 in the paint.
“I mean, that’s our advantage,” Paul Pierce said. “Joe was our one constant throughout the whole game. We feel like he has a matchup on most guards, especially in this series. We’re just going to feed off that. They’re going to pay so much attention to Joe that it just leaves us other guys open, and I think that’s why i was able to do what I was able to do (score nine straight points late in the fourth quarter), because of the attention they paid to Joe.”
A mismatch the Nets continued to exploit. “Their guards aren’t big enough so I just try to use my size to my advantage,” Johnson said. “Not necessarily always scoring, but making plays for other guys.”
So, what is the key to being a good scorer and facilitator out of the post, Joe?
“You have to be patient, know when to score, know when to bait and when the double-team comes kick it to the open guy,” Johnson said. “So those are things that i’ve kinda been dealing with all season.”
Johnson figures the Raptors are going to make adjustments on defense -- but so will he. “Whether it’s doubling me when I catch, doubling me in the pick-and roll,” he said. “It’s things we went over in practice and we’ll be prepared.”
Johnson, 32, now in his ninth postseason, was glad to get a couple days off to rest and recover. “It’s a big help. I needed it,” he said with a laugh. “We’re somewhat of an older team, so a couple days off can’t hurt.”
Last season, Johnson was dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the playoffs. It limited him -- especially in Game 7, when he shot 2-for-14 from the field.
This season, he’s healthy. You can tell the difference.
“Last year I couldn’t even warm up or shoot with the guys because of the plantar fasciitis,” Johnson said. “But this year’s a lot different, and I’m thankful for that.”
The Nets are thankful that they can throw the ball into Johnson and let him go to work down low. “He’s been huge for us,” Shaun Livingston said. “We understand our matchups, and we understand we’re usually at our best when we’re playing through him. I think that’s something we just have to continue to take into Game 2, and the rest of the series and just trust him to make the right plays.”