Down seven, under eight minutes to play and with little momentum, Joe Johnson checked in for the Utah Jazz, and it was over.
SALT LAKE CITY—Down seven, under eight minutes to play and with little momentum, Joe Johnson checked in for the Utah Jazz, and it was over.
“Iso Joe” scored a floater, nailed a three-pointer, and sunk another floater before the Clippers could blink, and the game was tied at 87. The white-clad crowd of 19,911, who had struggled to find positive action to cheer for in the fourth quarter, stood on their feet and roared.
“Well, we were kidding around; it’s Sunday, and they used to call him ‘Joe Jesus’,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “He has that impact because of his poise. I think he settles everybody. He’s so sure with the ball.”
Johnson gave the Jazz their final lead with another soft layup, and his teammates took over from there. The Jazz went on to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 4 of their NBA Playoff series, 105-98.
Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood combined for a trio of dagger three-pointers to cash in on key turnovers and stops, snatching the game from the Clippers’ hands.
“We were able to get stops, which fueled our offense,” Johnson said. “We were able to get down the court pretty quickly instead of just random pick-and-rolls, we were getting in the teeth of the defense. Whether we had layups, dunks, or kick-outs for threes, I thought we were doing a good job making the right decision.”
The game was also the return of center Rudy Gobert, who was injured in the opening seconds of the series in LA. It turned out to be great timing for Utah, as Gordon Hayward missed most of the game with food poisoning.
“[Hayward] was basically on his back up until game time,” Snyder said. “He had IVs and whatever kind of anti-nausea stuff they were giving him trying to get him in a better place. He wanted to play and got out there and just didn’t have anything.”
Hayward only managed to play nine minutes before exiting the game, scoring three points. Johnson stepped up in his stead with 28 points, in front of 18 from Hood and 17 from Derrick Favors. Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford scored 27 and 25, respectively. Paul was just one rebound shy of a triple-double with twelve rebounds.
The Jazz broke out to a 22-14 lead, in large part helped by Favors’ eight first quarter points, already quadrupling his Game 3 performance. But Clipper guard Jamaal Crawford matched Favors’ eight to help his team take a 26-24 lead after the first quarter.
The teams traded baskets and the Jazz chased the Clippers lead while Hayward went to the locker room. At halftime, with his team holding a 55-52 lead, he was ruled out for the remainder of the game. The Clippers carried a lead of up to seven in the third and fourth quarters, while the Jazz treaded water, until the home side woke up first in the final seconds of the game.
With the series tied at 2-2, Game 5 will be played on Tuesday in Los Angeles, with Game 6 in Salt Lake City on Friday.
Rudy Gobert & Joe Johnson: