It’s been pondered at least once, twice or a million times heading into this season — who would be the Brooklyn Nets go-to-guy in the fourth quarter, Paul Pierce or Joe Johnson? En route to Friday night’s validating home victory over the Miami Heat, those two made it clear they have no problems sharing that responsibility, thus creating one of the most efficient clutch tandems in the NBA right before our eyes.
Of Brooklyn’s 23 fourth quarter points in their 101-100 win against the back-to-back champs, Pierce and Johnson combined for 14 of them, as Johnson had eight and Pierce added another six. Each of them also finished the game with a team-high 19 points.
The Nets learned a great deal about themselves last night. They can not only compete with the best, but after losing the previous 13 meetings with the Heat, they can finally defeat them. And they can also do that without the need of a 30+ point night from one of their stars.
But the one-two fourth quarter punch of Pierce and Johnson, however, was something new they discovered. While their teammates struggled to find the bottom of the net during Miami’s big comeback effort, Pierce and Johnson carried them home.
Neither of them directly sought to assume the role of alpha-male, but they also weren’t deferent to each other at the same time. They were able to find that happy medium that ultimately resulted in a Nets win over the best of the best.
It’s incredible how Pierce and Johnson were able to accomplish that balance in only their second regular season game together when you consider how long it took LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to figure it out after LeBron bounced for Miami in 2010.
That chemistry has to continue in order for the Nets to be at their very best. Making teams worry about having to stop two supreme closers instead of just one is an enormous advantage for Brooklyn.
Every team in the league should be on high alert.