BOSTON — Several teams in this year's NBA playoffs are missing key players. One could argue, however, that no team has been more depleted than the Atlanta Hawks. After losing Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia in the regular season, Atlanta saw Josh Smith bitten by the injury bug late in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
Smith left with just over four minutes remaining in the Hawks' eventual 87-80 loss. With so many key players stuck in street clothes, it left Atlanta's six-time All Star Joe Johnson to carry the offensive load.
Johnson is one of the better one-on-one scorers in the league, but is often criticized for the so-called "iso-Joe" offense. Despite having a very talented roster (when healthy), the Hawks frequently settle offensively and simply let Johnson go to work.
In Friday night's game, the Hawks had an important possession with 37 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 80-80. Virtually anybody with some familiarity of the Hawks knew what was coming next. The Hawks went to their star player and hoped he could make something happen.
"It was isolation on the wing," Johnson said.
The Hawks came up empty on the possession, but Johnson wasn't to blame. Instead of chucking up a contested jumper, Johnson made a wise basketball decision that simply didn't work out.
"They came up with a double team so I just made the right play," Johnson said after scoring a game-high 29 points on Friday.
Johnson passed out of the double team, which led to an open look for guard Willie Green, who ended up missing the shot.
"I thought Will had a great look at it. It's a shot he normally makes," Johnson added. "It's a shot we work on in practice. But unfortunately it didn't go down."
Johnson didn't have the most efficient game, but he is the team's most competent scorer. He finished 11 of 28 from the field with only two turnovers on the night. Riddled with injuries, Atlanta got key contributions from some role players. But with the game on the line, the Hawks put faith in their best player.
Friday night, Johnson made the right play. Sometimes it just doesn't work out.