"Iso Joe" has become a major problem for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Johnson scored 28 points, and the Jazz beat the Clippers 105-98 on Sunday night to tie their first-round playoff series at 2-all. It was Utah's first home playoff win since 2010.
"He's so sure with the ball," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "It's not often you find a guy that has that combination of skill, as far as his ability to handle the ball and make plays. And the strength to get to spots on the floor.
"The thing that really takes us to a unique place is he's such a willing passer. He basically either scored or assisted on every basket (down the stretch). ... We knew this is who he is and he knows it's playoff time."
Johnson, who hit the winning shot in Game 1, scored 11 straight Jazz points during a crucial stretch in the fourth quarter, including a pull-up jumper for a 91-90 lead with 3:55 remaining after Utah trailed by seven with 7:37 left. The Clippers never led again after controlling the game for most of the night.
"Just trying to be aggressive and make plays," Johnson said. "We had to get stops, which kind of fueled our offense. ... We were getting into the teeth of the defense, whether we had layups, dunks or kick-outs for 3s, thought we did a good job of making the right decision."
Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles, who had a career-high 11 assists, also hit huge baskets for Utah down the stretch. The Jazz needed all the help they could get after Gordon Hayward left with food poisoning.
The series returns to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Tuesday night.
Chris Paul had 27 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds for Los Angeles, which played without Blake Griffin after he suffered a toe injury in Game 3. Griffin has been ruled out for the rest of the postseason, increasing the pressure on the rest of the Clippers.
"We let that one slip away," Paul said. "It was 87-80, and that's on me. Being the point guard, I have to manage the game better and make sure we get good shots.
"We came here to get back home court. Had an opportunity to get two, but it is what it is."
Jamal Crawford scored 25 points, and DeAndre Jordan had 12 points and 10 rebounds. But Los Angeles shot 44 percent from the field, compared to 54.1 percent for Utah.
The Jazz got Rudy Gobert back from a knee injury, and the center finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds. But Hayward departed in the first half.
"We really couldn't score down the stretch," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "Joe Johnson and Joe Ingles, those two in particular were phenomenal tonight. (Johnson) made tough shots on our best defender. We should have given him more help.
"He's a tough shot-maker."
Clippers: Austin Rivers sat out again with a strained left hamstring. He has not played in the series. ... Marreese Speights started in place of Griffin.
Jazz: Dante Exum, the No. 5 overall pick of the 2014 draft, made his first appearance of the playoffs. ... Hood scored 18 points. Derrick Favors had 17 after being held to two in Game 3.
Under the weather
Hayward played just nine minutes. He spent much of the second quarter in the locker room and was ruled out at halftime. He scored just three points and looked physically sapped. The first-time All-Star was coming off a career-high 40-point effort in Game 3.
Back in the middle
Gobert returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two games with a left knee hyperextension and bone contusion suffered 17 seconds into Game 1. The crowd roared with his announcement in the starting lineup and he moved well throughout, throwing down dunks and affecting shots on defense.
The Clippers are without Griffin for the rest of the playoffs after suffering a plantar plate injury to his right big toe in Game 3. Utah guard George Hill understands after missing 16 games with a big toe injury this season.
"You've got to think, your big toes are the main part of your body to help with balance and explosion and things like that," Hill said. "Just like if you didn't have thumbs, it'd be hard to do a lot of things in your daily life. Just think about your thumbs and big toes are your main points of your body. I'm sure it's something that's excruciating pain for him because I've been in that situation."
|Joe Johnson of the Utah Jazz shoots the ball over the LA Clippers' Wesley Johnson. (Photo: Chris Nicoll, USA TODAY Sports)|
Utah Jazz lose Gordon Hayward due to food poisoning
Just when the Jazz thought they were at full strength, reality set in.
On the same night when they welcomed Rudy Gobert back to the lineup, leading scorer Gordon Hayward left for good with 8:42 left in the second quarter, a victim of food poisoning.
Hayward battled the effects of the illness all day Sunday and received fluids in the hours leading up until tip-off. He didn't participate in the pre-game warmups and was noticeably on the bench while his teammates loosened up.
Hayward did start, but after scoring a basket, was pulled from the game. He returned briefly in the second quarter but was clearly fatigued and listless.
Hayward scored 40 points in Game 3 two nights earlier.
Utah Jazz: Joe Johnson’s late heroics lead Jazz to 105-98 win, 2-2 tie with Clippers
Gordon Hayward spent most of Sunday hooked to an intravenous drip, team doctors trying desperately to prepare the Utah Jazz's ailing All-Star forward for a pivotal postseason game.
By halftime, however, Hayward would be making his way out of Vivint Smart Home Arena, too sick from an apparent bout of food poisoning to return to the court, and Jazz fans everywhere had to be feeling sick, too.
Take one Joe Johnson and get out of his way.
The veteran forward scored a game-high 28 points in a 105-98 victory, saving a shorthanded Jazz for a second time in this best-of-7 series with the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Knowing Gordon wasn't coming back, we knew somebody was going to have to step up," Johnson said.
The Jazz trailed 87-80 midway through the fourth quarter, when Johnson took over Sunday night, scoring the Jazz's next 11 points. Johnson, the hero of Game 1, finished the frame with 13 points, three assists and his second playoff victory as a Jazzman.
"We're lucky to have him," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said, the series tied at 2 and heading to Los Angeles. "We were kidding around. It's Sunday, and they used to call him Joe Jesus."
The Jazz's day started with good news. After missing all but 11 seconds of the first three games of the series, center Rudy Gobert suited up against the Clippers on Sunday. The 19,911 in attendance roared as Gobert's name was announced among the Jazz's starters, and roared louder still when Gobert shook the stanchion with a powerful dunk in the opening minutes of the game.
But Hayward's illness would quickly cast doubt on the Jazz's chances of tying the series.
"He was basically on his back up until game time," Snyder said. "He had IVs and whatever kind of anti-nausea stuff to get him in a better place. He wanted to play and got out there and didn't have anything."
Hayward played nine minutes, finishing with three points. He spent most of the first half at the end of the bench, a towel over his shoulders. As the Jazz closed the final minutes of the first half on a 13-5 run to take a 55-52 lead back to the locker room, Hayward already had made his way there.
"I think he threw up again," Snyder said. "They put him in a dark room, put a towel over his head and that was it."
Hayward was seen walking out of the arena during halftime alongside general manager Dennis Lindsey.
"It's unbelievable, isn't it?" said Jazz swingman Joe Ingles. "We've pretty much had everything you can throw at us. Injuries, sickness, kids. Everything's been thrown."
But one of Lindsey's major offseason acquisitions was about to get going.
The Clippers, playing their first game since losing star forward Blake Griffin for the rest of the playoffs to a toe injury, got 27 points and 12 assists from point guard Chris Paul. Former sixth man of the year Jamal Crawford, meanwhile, finally broke out for 25 points off the bench.
But Crawford, who spent two seasons as a member of the Atlanta Hawks, knew all too well what his former teammate, Johnson, could do.