Wizards/Heat — From The Other Side: A Dynamite Performance by J.J. | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards/Heat — From The Other Side: A Dynamite Performance by J.J.

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Updated: November 18, 2017

 

Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra wasn’t exactly verbose prior to last night’s game against the Wizards — in fact, his pregame speech lasted a little over a minute (1:17 to be exact). But in the few words he so graciously shared with the media, he made it clear that despite his team’s loss to the Wizards on Monday night, he had seen enough to feel confident about the rematch.

“I liked a lot of things we did defensively, especially after the game the next day.  We’re getting closer but really in that game I thought a large part was our offensively inefficiency…you can’t expect to shut those guys down under 10 points but that was in our wheelhouse defensively to be able to win a game, but we have to be better on offense to win on their home court.”

Spoelstra may very well have seen positive performances from his team on Wednesday night, but that did not include the play of James Johnson. He played 26 minutes, but scored just five points with two rebounds. Even prior to that game, by his own admission, Johnson had been struggling and lacking offensive rhythm. He scored 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting in a loss to the Detroit Pistons last Sunday, and two days before that, he scored just two points in 22 minutes in a win against the Utah Jazz.

Johnson understood the correlation between his low-energy play and the Heat’s two losses, and he decided to do something about it. First, he told the media during practice on Thursday that he had to get better, and then he made it his business to arrive early to the pregame shootaround to work out the kinks in his shot.

And per Coach Spoelstra, he also went in front of the team, and took full responsibility for his poor play:

“The J.J. that makes us good is the one that leads the locker room and that started yesterday by stepping in front of  all of you (the media) and taking responsibility. That’s a great sign of leadership and he didn’t need to do that, we’re not putting it all on J.J., but he has that kind of emotional stability an maturity to set the tone for that locker room.”

Johnson started last night’s game on the bench, but after Wizards forward Markieff Morris hit two quick jumpers over Heat forward Justise Winslow, Johnson’s shot at redemption came at the 10:44 mark of the first quarter, when Spoelstra subbed him in the game. He wasted no time going to work.

First he extended a Miami possession by grabbing an offensive rebound, then he hit a wide open 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Heat their first lead 8-6 (a lead they wouldn’t concede). A few minutes after that, Johnson grabbed a defensive rebound on one end, then scored on a cutting layup on the other. By the end of the opening quarter, Johnson was the Heat’s leading scorer with 7 points, and the Heat had a 26-17 lead over the Wizards.

After a quiet second quarter, Johnson’s scoring reared its prolific head once again in the third. Winslow’s play significantly improved in the third quarter, so Johnson had to wait six minutes to enter the game, rather than the 90 seconds he waited in the opening quarter. That didn’t affect his play at all.

He stopped an 8-0 Wizards run by finding a cutting Hassan Whiteside for a dunk:

And later in the quarter he scored on consecutive possessions — first via a 3-pointer, and then from an alley-oop from Josh Richardson. By the end of the quarter, he was still the Heat’s leading scorer with 14 points, and thanks to his timely rebounding, passing and scoring, the Heat led 66-57 at the end of three quarters.

Even in the fourth quarter, when the red-hot shooting of Bradley Beal threatened to erase the Heat’s lead, it was Johnson who made a layup and a jumper to keep his team afloat while they weathered the Wizards’ run. Johnson’s only blemish was missing one of two free throws with 6.5 seconds left, which kept the Wizards alive for an extra possession; however, not even that minor blip was enough to dim Johnson’s shine on this night. He finished with 20 points, four assists, five rebounds and shot 50 percent from the field.

After the game, Johnson spoke about how happy he was to show himself and the media who the real “J.J.” was, and he also thanked the other leaders on the team, who encouraged him during his mini-slump.

“It’s nice to play without thinking you know? All my teammates believed in me and they wanted it and needed it from me…it’s just stepping up you know? I said that wasn’t my character the last few games and tonight you guys got a chance to see a little glimpse of it. [Goran]Dragic came up and talked to me, Hassan [Whiteside], Dion [Waiters], of course Udonis [Haslem], and so I just took heed, played my game was 16 (his jersey number) out there.”

Justise Was The Truth…Eventually

The 6-foot-7 Justise Winslow allowed the 6-foot-10 Markieff Morris to score 10 points in the first quarter of Wednesday’s game, and Coach Spoelstra was not about to let that happen in last night’s game. After Morris scored consecutive baskets, Winslow found himself on the bench with 10:44 left in the quarter. He did not return until the start of the second.

The stat sheet won’t properly demonstrate how dominant Winslow was in that second quarter (six points, two steals, five rebounds, an assist, a blocked shot and endless hustle), but he was successfully able to control the tempo of both the Wizards’ starting and backup units. The energy that was severely lacking in the first 90 seconds of the game was there in abundance in his 10 minutes of second quarter play. That energy allowed him to do this:

and then this on the very next possession:

https://twitter.com/MiamiHEAT/status/931688631261122562

When asked what Coach Spoelstra said about his quick first quarter hook, Winslow replied, “He said I needed a better start, my energy wasn’t there, and that was on me. I gotta do a better job of being ready at the tip.” When asked about his mindset in the second quarter, Winslow, who did his post-game interview with his arm draped around rookie Bam Adebayo, had this to say:

“Just to make an impact. Bam is always giving me confidence to go out there and play, and I just had to change my energy and change my mindset and my mentality and once I did that, I knew what I did wrong, and I just wanted to fix it.”

Despite a furious Wizards fourth quarter run, Winslow’s energy and James Johnson’s return to form were enough to push Miami past Washington.

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.