SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz forward Joe Johnson called his performance Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans “just a normal night.” While it might have been more in line with how most of his career has gone, it was a unique one compared to the rest of his 2017-2018 campaign thus far.
Johnson scored a season-high 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and looked more like a seven-time All-Star and player who was huge for the Jazz in last year’s playoffs than a guy who is averaging just over six points per game.
The contest marked a big moment for him as he continues to make his way back from a wrist injury that sidelined him for 21 games from the beginning of November until mid-December.
Entering Wednesday night, he had shot just over 36 percent from the field since his return, but hit his first six shots against the Pelicans, not missing until the 3:14 mark of the third quarter.
“It’s been a process, but I’ve been doing what I need to do on a daily basis and obviously it’s getting better,” he said.
Johnson said his struggles since returning have been thanks to a combination of getting back to optimal conditioning and strengthening his wrist, but that the key to getting out of a rough patch offensively is to just keep firing away.
“I’ve been through many slumps,” he said. “You know, in 17 seasons, I’ve been through plenty of slumps, so it doesn’t bother me. You have to shoot your way out of it, whether it’s in games, in practice or getting up extra shots after practice, whatever the case may be, but you’ll come out of it.”
Although Utah lost 108-98, head coach Quin Snyder said Johnson’s night was a positive.
“We’ve seen it before, right?” Snyder said. “He’s been hurt. It takes some time to get your rhythm back when you basically break your wrist on your shooting hand. It was good to see him find some rhythm in his game offensively.”
Johnson acknowledged he still isn’t 100 percent healthy and still has his wrist taped up, but he is ready to keep working to make an impact for a Jazz team that needs his ability to create his own shot.
“I just play through it, man,” he said. “I don’t make excuses. If I’m out here, then I’m ready. I’m getting there. I’m getting there. It’s a slow process, but I’m making it. I’m getting there.”