If there was any good news to come out of the Nets' triple-overtime collapse in Chicago, it was the play of Joe Johnson.
Two days after being a game-time decision with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, Johnson played nearly 48 minutes in the 142-134 loss and was the one Net capable of knocking down huge shots in the overtime periods.
While point guard Deron Williams, who played 58 minutes, looked exhausted late in regulation and the overtime periods, Johnson rescued the team several times before missing a fadeaway with six seconds left and the score tied in the second OT.
Johnson scored 22 points and shot 10-for-20. His two biggest baskets came in the second overtime. First, he drove past Luol Deng to hit a 10-footer that tied the score at 119 with 11.8 seconds left. After Nate Robinson banked in a shot with two seconds left, Johnson forced a third OT when he drove past Deng and hit a floater at the buzzer.
"It's baffling to me, scary for us, to think what this year would be like without Joe Johnson," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said in a telephone conference call with reporters Sunday afternoon.
Johnson has been dealing with a sore heel since February and said he aggravated the injury in the second quarter of Game 2 last Monday.
Johnson has had his critics in the course of the season. When asked what he would say to those critics, Carlesimo was close to incensed.
"It's hard to be polite and answer the question," Carlesimo said. "Critic is such an ambiguous term. I would call them uninformed or basketballunintelligent. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it would be hard for me to think there is an intelligent basketball person making a statement like that about Joe Johnson. In terms of clutch plays, game-winning, game-tying plays, putting a game into overtime or getting us a win, Joe has been right up there with anyone in the NBA this year."
The Nets now need to win three straight to advance to the second round. Game 5 is at Barclays Center Monday night at 7. That's a pretty tall order, but Johnson remained confident after Saturday's game.
"Anything is possible,'' he said. "This was a heartbreaker, but we have to get back to the drawing board and see what we can do in the next game. It was definitely a game that we let get away, but the series is not over."