Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson played through a plantar fasciitis injury Monday, and head coach P.J. Carlesimo expects him to do the same this afternoon when they take on the Bulls in Game 4 on Comcast SportsNet.
Johnson aggravated the injury he had been dealing with since the All-Star break late in Brooklyn’s Game 2 loss at home, but received a cortisone injection prior to Game 3 and was able to play 40 minutes. The Nets lost that game and now face an almost must-win, trailing 2-1 in the best of seven series.
And while Johnson—who has averaged 16.0 points on 42 percent shooting through three games—has played through the injury, Carlesimo also noted he’s learning to better play with the injury every day.
“I’m anxious to see how he warms up and what he feels like, but I think the more he plays this way the more he’ll get accustomed to it,” Carlesimo said. “I think in the beginning you’ve got to be a little tentative, you’re wondering what it’s gonna feel like, what you can do, what you can’t do. I think if anything he’ll play, hopefully, more comfortably in terms of with the injury and what he can do and what he can’t do quite as well as normal.”
Johnson seemed to move well Monday, playing 40 minutes and scoring 15 points, but he shot just 6-of-14 from the field and went to the free throw line twice. Carlesimo admitted his shooting guard isn’t playing at 100 percent but is improving every day.
“He’s been playing inhibited, if that’s the correct word, and he’s doing the best he can.”
Carlesimo plans to deploy Johnson as he normally would, a continuing trend he wants to stay consistent as the playoffs go deeper and deeper.
With a handful of days to prepare after the regular season and three games played between the two in the last week, both the Nets and Bulls know each other’s tendencies. Because that does not give an advantage to either side, Carlesimo said the game comes down to which team better executes their own gameplan.
“The deeper you get into a series, everybody knows, guys know people’s plays, and it comes down to execution; it comes down to making plays and doing the things you want to do—you need to do—to be successful,” he said.
The Nets shot 34 percent in Game 3, missed 16 of their 21 3-point attempts and scored 76 points, their lowest point total since a Feb. 24 home loss to Memphis. And what makes the Nets successful, Carlesimo said, hasn’t changed in the playoffs.
“Right now we’ve got to get to free throw line more than we’ve done, we’ve got to get offensive boards and we’ve got to change sides of the floor. But that hasn’t changed,” he said. “We’ve got to do it better and obviously it’d be good if we could make some threes. So if we change sides the threes will be there, we gotta shoot them with confidence and we’ve gotta make just a little bit better percentage than what we’ve been doing.”
The Nets know the series is still up for grabs—Johnson said Thursday the Nets had “a pretty good chance” to overcome their 2-1 deficit—and Carlesimo feels confident his “agitated” team will play with more of a sense of urgency than they did Thursday.
“I think they understand—each succeeding playoff game usually is—but it’s the biggest game we’ve played all year,” he said. “We’re 3.5 hours from 2-2, best of three series with two in our building. So they understand what they need to do.”