Despite sore foot, Joe Johnson gives Nets his best shot

Joe Johnson (7) shoots over Chicago Bulls' Jimmy

Joe Johnson (7) shoots over Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler (21) and Nazr Mohammed during the first half of in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. (April 25, 2013) (Credit: AP)

CHICAGO -- Joe Johnson did follow through on his promise. He tried and he did give the Nets all he had in Game 3. The problem for the Nets was that he had more to give on only one foot than most of his teammates did with full health.

This has been a rough week for Johnson, whose sore left heel has blossomed into full and painful plantar fasciitis, just when it had seemed to be getting better. After resting on Wednesday when the team practiced and going out for warmups Thursday night, he gave it a shot -- and got one.

Johnson went from possibly not playing to staying out there for 41 minutes in the Nets' 79-76 loss to the Bulls because of a cortisone injection before the game. "I had no choice. I couldn't have played without it,'' he said. "It definitely helps, it definitely works. It was a little painful, but you've got to do what you've got to do sometimes.''

The Nets would have had little chance if not for Johnson's team-leading nine points in the first half, keeping the Bulls within seven points despite a woefully cold stretch. He finished with 15, shot 6-for-14 and was on the floor throughout a late comeback that gave the Nets a chance to tie at the buzzer.

"I guess we can take a little good from it,'' Johnson said. "We were able to get ourselves back in the game. We'll have a different look going into Game 4.''

The key word there is "we." Johnson does not envision himself sitting out a pivotal game here tomorrow afternoon, with the Nets' season pretty much on the line. At the workout Wednesday, he vowed to try to play. His foot apparently had some doubts Thursday, though.

"I didn't know how it was going to feel when I went out there and warmed up, so I went out there, gave it a shot and it felt pretty good. So I decided to give it a go,'' he said. "It was a little sore, but that was to be expected. I felt pretty good the whole game, other than the last two or three minutes, it kind of tightened up. Other than that, I felt all right.''

Johnson played longer and better than did the Bulls' Joakim Noah, who also has plantar fasciitis. Noah seemed energized in Game 2 Monday at Barclays Center, lifting his team in a victory that possibly turned the series. Last night, Noah played 27 minutes and was scoreless until he sank one of two free throws with 4.4 seconds left.

That just showed that the injury, like the playoffs, brings ups and downs. Johnson was bracing for the latter late Thursday night, mindful that the worst soreness comes a day after a game. That is a key issue for the Nets, who had severe trouble scoring -- making only 34.6 percent of their shots -- even with Johnson. Without him, the offense has the potential to be ugly.

Asked about the possible effect Friday, he said, "I'm not sure yet, but we'll see. Hopefully, it won't be as bad as I expect.''

He expects to give it a go again Saturday.

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