He's so sure with the ball. It's not often you find a guy that has that combination of skill as far as handling the ball and ability to make plays and the strength to get to spots on the floor. —Jazz coach Quin Snyder
SALT LAKE CITY — Perhaps this was precisely why Joe Johnson was brought to Utah as a shrewd free-agent signing last summer:
To help show this young Utah Jazz ballclub how to win under the intense pressure of the NBA playoffs.
And even though his team was hit with another cruel dose of terrible misfortune, it still could not prevent the savvy 16-year veteran from going to work and doing his job.
"We're lucky to have him," third-year Utah head coach Quin Snyder said. " We knew this is who he is, and he knows it's playoff time and this is who he is."
And this is who he is: After hitting a last-gasp, game-winning shot in Game 1 of this first-round playoff series with the Los Angeles Clippers, followed by the masterful performance he turned in in Game 4 Sunday night at Vivint Arena, nobody in the building would argue that point.
Johnson, a 6-foot-7 reserve forward with more than 100 postseason games on his resume, scored 13 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, including 11 straight Jazz points that propelled them from a seven-point deficit (87-80) into a 91-90 lead with 3:56 remaining in their pivotal Game 4 matchup.
For good measure, Johnson then assisted on three of Utah's next four baskets as the Jazz — forced to play most of the game without leading scorer Gordon Hayward, who was felled by a bout of food poisoning and played just nine minutes — rallied past the Clippers 105-98 to square the best-of-seven showdown at two games apiece.
"I knew we had to get it done some way, somehow," Johnson said. "We were right there the whole game; we just really couldn't get over the hump, get control of the lead.
"I remember last game, C.P. (Clippers guard Chris Paul) really putting his stamp on the game towards the end. I wanted us to return the favor."
Johnson certainly put his stamp on this one.
"He has that impact, because of his voice, I think he sells everybody," Snyder said of Johnson. "He's so sure with the ball. It's not often you find a guy that has that combination of skill as far as handling the ball and ability to make plays and the strength to get to spots on the floor.
"Ultimately, the thing that really takes him, for us, to a unique place is that he's such a willing passer. He basically either scored or assisted on every basket (down the stretch). He was getting to the rim, hitting his floater, getting threes, and then late in the game he got Rodney and Joe (Ingles) shots."
Johnson wound up 12 of 17 from the floor with a pair of 3-pointers, and the ageless 35-year-old pro also had five rebounds and five assists.
Rudy Gobert returned to the lineup and was his typical dunking, rebounding, shot-blocking self after missing virtually all of the series' first three games, finishing with 15 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks.
"Obviously we all know what Gordon brings," Gobert said, "but we got guys that can step up. Rodney (Hood) hit some big shots down the stretch. Both Joes (Johnson and Ingles) defend, been unbelievable defensively at the end.
"Everybody stepped up. We got a deep team and we were able to make plays when we need them."
Indeed, Utah forward Derrick Favors played like, well, the Derrick Favors that Jazz fans came to love in 2015-16, as he had 17 points, six boards and two steals.
Hood had 18 points off the Jazz bench, and point guard George Hill scored 13, while Ingles added eight points and handed out a career-high 11 assists.
"It's Joe Johnson," Hood said. "He took over the game, he put us on his back."
Game 5 will be played Tuesday night at the Staples Center in L.A., with Game 6 back at Vivint Arena on Friday.
"It's a series. It's 2-2 and we still have the home-court (advantage)," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. " We're happy with 2-2; I mean, we'll take it. We came in here and we got one win. Overall I loved how we played, I didn't like how we finished.
"Joe Johnson and Joe Ingles, I thought those two in particular were phenomenal tonight. Joe (Johnson) made tough shots on our best defender. He's a tough shot-maker."
Paul scored 27 points, had 12 assists and grabbed nine rebounds in another superb all-around performance for the Clippers, while Jamal Crawford broke out of his shooting slump with 25 points off the bench, hitting 9-of-13 shots, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range.
DeAndre Jordan added a dozen points and had 10 rebounds for L.A., and J.J. Redick also scored 12 while Raymond Felton chipped in with 11 more for the Clippers.
Crawford, too, marveled at Johnson's contributions and wasn't the least bit surprised by them.
"Not at all," he said. "Joe, especially how he plays his game, it was never built on athleticism. He's patient, he knows how to play the game, he has a high (basketball) IQ.
"People forget when he came into Phoenix, they played him at point guard so he knows how to make reads, and he did an excellent job of that tonight."