The Nets survived. They outlasted the upstart Toronto Raptors and have moved onto the Miami Heat. But before we dive into the next round, something needs to be said: Joe Johnson was incredible in the first round.
Johnson is without a doubt the series MVP, averaging just under 22 points on 52% shooting and 39% shooting from beyond the arc. Johnson changed the entire Raptors defensive scheme in order for him to be taken out of the game, and he still dominated. Forgetting Game 4, which he just didn't receive the ball enough to make an impact, the offense flowed through Johnson. The Nets were also just much more efficient when he had the ball.
Johnson was much stronger and bigger then his defenders-typically DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, or John Salmons-and got the ball quite often in the post. Here, Johnson just simply pushes his way to the basket.
Johnson was head and shoulders above any of the Raptors defenders and they had no answer for him, especially in the post. Johnson shot 10 of 22 in post up situations, per Synergy, and drew six fouls.
What was the most effective part of Johnson's post game, besides finishing, was how he attracted so much of Toronto's defenders and how it lead to so many easy shots. Take this play for example.
Johnson gets doubled, which means someone is open. That someone is Deron Williams. With his size advantage, Johnson can see the whole floor and find which one of his teammates doesn't have a defender glued to him. Kyle Lowry has to pick up Mason Plumlee, leaving Williams wide open for an easy three.
These types of plays didn't always lead to a Johnson assist, but his play did inevitably lead to open shots. With great ball movement by the Nets, the ball got to the open man often for easy buckets. Johnson ranks 14 in "secondary assists" during through the first round, which is when one player's pass leads to another players assist, per SportVu Player Tracking Data. This shows how much of an impact Johnson had on the Nets offense not only as a scoring force, but also a distributor.
Johnson was steady for the most part during the season, averaging 16 points on 45% shooting, which are fine numbers for a scorer who is on a team as offensively balanced as the Nets. But during the postseason, Johnson was aware of his advantage and made sure he took over games. At one point in the fourth quarter of Game 7, Johnson scored 11 straight points for Brooklyn and kept the Raptors at arms length. During the Nets' comeback in Game 5, Johnson scored 26 in the second half and sat only eight seconds due to foul trouble.
Johnson was crazy efficient in these seven games, having an effective field goal percentage (which factors in three-point makes) of nearly 56% and had an offensive rating of 110 points per 100 possessions, five more points on average then in the regular season.
When Joe Jesus took his well-earned rests? The Nets fell apart. When Johnson was on the floor, the Nets scored 110 points per 100 possessions, the second highest number for a player on the team. But when Johnson was on the bench, Brooklyn averaged 96 points per 100 possessions, the worst mark on the team. Johnson's impact was so great when he was playing that he played the most minutes of any Net during the series.
This was Johnson's series, for he was the Nets most lethal weapon game in and game out, and when they gave him the ball, almost every time something positive came out of it.
We salute you, Joe Johnson and we are proud to name you the Series MVP.