I just think toward the end of the game we were the ones that came up with the most big plays. Luckily, that shot went down. It seemed like it took forever, but it went down. —Joe Johnson
LOS ANGELES — Joe Johnson added to an impressive statistic when his mind kicked into slow motion — “really, really, really, really, really slow,” he said — and the 16-year NBA veteran executed a brilliant drive and floater in the Utah Jazz’s improbable Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Not only did it lift Utah to a 1-0 first-round lead despite Rudy Gobert’s injury, but it was the eighth time in 10 years that Johnson pulled off a game-winning buzzer-beating basket.
No other player in the NBA has more than four game-winners at the horn in the last decade, according to ESPN Stats.
On Sunday, Johnson admitted he doesn’t remember all of his previous big buckets.
He’ll never forget this one, which gave Utah a thrilling 97-95 win.
“It’s right up there at the top, obviously,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he was supposed to inbound the ball, probably to Gordon Hayward, but Derrick Favors grabbed it after Chris Paul’s tying floater with 13.1 seconds left and passed it in to the guy with the Iso Joe nickname.
Johnson cut across the court, and received a huge assist when Jazz wing Joe Ingles set a pick, forcing the Clippers to switch. That left 6-foot-7 Johnson with 6-foot-5 Jamal Crawford on him instead of 6-foot-10 Blake Griffin.
Johnson let the clock wind down to about four seconds and then attacked, cutting across the court toward the lane, picking up his dribble, using his body and left arm to get space between himself and Crawford and then lofting up a floater that just barely floated over the outstretched fingers of his defender and incoming 6-foot-11 leaper DeAndre Jordan.
The ball clearly left Johnson’s hand before time expired, but it bounced off of the back of the rim and then rattled in through the cylinder on the way down.
Johnson pumps his right fist and screams in the direction of the suddenly stunned and silent Staples Center crowd.
Teammates rush the court and mob Johnson.
“We were very resilient throughout that whole game. It was a game of ups and downs,” Johnson said. “I just think toward the end of the game we were the ones that came up with the most big plays. Luckily, that shot went down. It seemed like it took forever, but it went down.”
It’s for situations like that that the Jazz pursued Johnson in free agency last offseason.
Both sides have benefited so far from Johnson’s two-year, $22 million deal.
“I’ve never questioned my decision. Maybe people thought this was a little out of the norm,” he said, “but I just looked at it that they had a lot of great young pieces and adding and sprinkling in some veteran talent could help these guys, and obviously it paid off.”
Snyder credited Johnson’s experience for paying off, too. This is the 12th postseason he’s participated in.
“He’s poised. He’s been in that situation,” Snyder said. “He has the ability to get where he wants to go on the floor with his size and his ball-handling ability, too. He’s able to take contact and get himself a clean look.”
Snyder also called the pick set by Ingles “a smart play.” It took all to contribute on this night.
“He set the pick and they switched. There was no help. It was basically mano-a-mano,” Johnson recalled. “I just seen it hitting the rim and I’m like, ‘Oh, please go in, man.’ It was great to be on the winning side.”